a “manicure” that lasts for 3 weeks??

A few months ago while cruising through my google reader I came across this (check out her other Calgel nails – they’re all awesome!) and this
I was intrigued.  Immediately, I knew that I needed to find out more about this Calgel thing.  I’m a sucker for nail stuff.   Weekly mani/pedis, acrylic, silk, extensions, UV gel…been there done that!
After some google searches, I quickly found a few more blogs and pictures and called up Sakura Nail Spa (UES) for an appointment.  Sakura is one of only a handful of salons that offer Calgel in the city.

From Sakura’s website:
“Calgel is one of Japan’s most popular UV Gel Systems used to strengthen soft of weak nails.  Choose from a wide range of colored gels that won’t peel or chip like regular polish.  There is no offensive odor, and it’s easy to remove without damaging your nails.  For long-term wear, we recommend fill-ins every 2 to 3 with your choice of the same color or a new one.”

Coincidentally, the spa at my gym also offers Calgel and they advertise it as a ‘manicure that will last for 3 weeks’.

Your base color starts at $40 (+$5 if you want them to mix a custom color for you).  French or gradiation at the tips of the nails add an extra $20, marbling adds $30 to the set and flat designs come in at about $3 each and 3D designs (made with acrylic) are around $4…depending on the complexity.
They also have a number of different glitters, stones (charged per piece) and stickers that you can jazz up your nails with.
I knew i was in trouble.  It wasn’t going to be cheap!
When you arrive at Sakura if you’re early, they’ll plop you down in the front waiting area and point you to some magazines to browse through.  Not sure what design you want?  Don’t fret – there is no shortage of inspiration from the Japanese nail magazines they have!

Two hours later I walked out with this:

Expensive? Yes.  Happy? YES!

In recent years I have switched over to UV gel as an overlay over french tips for two reasons.  1. I don’t have to wait for polish to dry 2. The gel feels much softer than having acrylic over the tips.
Calgel is even softer than the UV gel that I had switched to last year!
I kept the set on for about 2.5 weeks…and on a self declared mental health day off from work, I decided to remove it myself at home. (Beats paying them $25 at the salon to do it!)

This is what my nails looked like after 2.5 weeks…at about the midway point I got a little bored of the look and decided to glue on my own little stone to the nail that had the 3d design.

Fast forward several months…last week I made another visit to Sakura. When booking your appointment, they ask what services you want – gradiation, designs (flat or 3d), marbling, etc – so they can allocate the appropriate amount of time for you.  Unlike most nail salons where they just rush you in and out in a 40 minute slot so they can get to the next customer.  When I called in for my appointment I told them that I wanted gradiation with flat designs.   I was over 30 minutes late for my appointment (damn traffic!) so I didn’t have time for any designs.

When I have short nails, one of my favorite color to wear is Essie’s Berry Hard.  After browsing through their color trays and finding nothing that looked similar to it, I asked if they could mix #18 with some black to darken it up a bit…and then add a black gradiation to the tip.  (Yes I am well aware that we are in Spring now…but i love berry hard!  I even wear it in the summer!)  And this is what I walked out with:

Two coats of clear, two coats of red, three layers of black on the tip and then another coat of clear on top.  I was amazed at how she applied the gradiation – *tap*tap*tap* with the black Calgel over and over again until the perfect gradiation was achieved!

Up until two days before my appointment, I still had on my UV gel french tip overlay…getting those off was quite the mission!  That’s why my nails appear so bumpy and icky.  I didn’t have time to  file and buff them down all the way to make them smooth and due to my tardiness to my appointment, they did all they could to make them presentable.  I’m really happy with the color and the gradiation…its really my own fault that they’re not super smooth looking.

Cut to the chase: Calgel is thicker and stronger than a nail polish, thinner and more flexible than acrylic and other nail coverings.  I’ve had acrylic applied thinly so it is ‘flexible’ only to have it crack on me.  In the end, sure its a ‘manicure’ that will last three weeks – it will stay on as long as you allow it.  I didn’t have any peeling or lifting of the gel from my nails the whole time I had it on.  I am just not sure if I’d leave them on for as long as I did though…the line that shows the growth started to really bug me towards the end!  I will probably stick to lighter colors or a clear base with a colored/french gradiation from now on.  All I really know is…I’M ADDICTED and it most definitely won’t be 10 months again until my next appointment!  I booked another appointment for 4/10 before I left!