Ah Hard Gels… the Fantastic Alternative to Acrylics, and Yet So Irritatingly Difficult to Master Applying.
To help you determine which hard gel viscosity is the best fit for your durability and application needs, I bought a few pots of Light Elegance hard gels to show you what’s available.
Clients, I would like to first give you the lowdown on the Light Elegance brand so you can see what it’s about and if you would benefit from including it in your regular salon regimen.
Techs, stay tuned because we’re going to also investigate more into the details about Light Elegance than the product website lists so you can determine if you should consider carrying it.
Personally I like knowing the company’s background story to know how experienced the company is with the product they have put out into the market, why it was created, why does it cost what it costs, and how is it better than what I use now. That way if someone asks then I have all the information ready so that they can have the same confidence I do in the products’ quality versus their advertisement claims.
What’s the company background story for Light Elegance?
Light Elegance was created and still owned by a husband and wife team Jim and Lezlie McConnell. Jim is a widely respected polymer chemist and is the science behind the product. Lezlie was a salon owner/manager and is the voice for clients and nail techs regarding product performance. Their company operates out of Orgeon. I attended a Light Elegance 8 hour workshop in Orlando on June 3rd, 2016 with them. They introduced world renowned nail technician and Next Top Nail Artist finalist Celina Ryden to teach the workshop. I will post about how that went in another post so I don’t derail from today’s hard gel post 🙂
I got a lot of information from the class and it helped me troubleshoot some things I had happen when I applied Light Elegance on some clients.
Light Elegance is not owned by any other company, and the owners are very hands on with their clients.
They have workshops you can pay to attend, or lots of online courses through their website. I enjoyed this a lot as a technician because a lot of companies don’t have instructions that actually match what will yield the best results from the product. And good luck trying to talk to the person that formulated the product. With this company, it’s like a direct line to the top!
Instructions for product application often gets lost in translation on it’s route from formulative chemist to customer. This mistrust of instructions from nail product manufacturers over the years has resulted in nail techs improvising techniques to get a certain result, which usually ends up damaging clients nails or wasting product.
Ok, so now that you know more about the background of this company, let’s get into some client detail questions about Light Elegance hard gels.
As a Client, How Would Light Elegance Help you Achieve your Nail Goals?
Light Elegance has a lot of gel products. They have an acrylic system too, but gel is their focus. They seem to have almost as many gels as Tammy Taylor has acrylics (and that company has the largest variety of acrylics). Gels are Light Elegance’s specialty, so that deserves consideration. Gels are their niche.
Here are some Q&A’s that you ask a client may find yourself asking your nail tech:
- Does Light Elegance contain nuts, or is processed in a place with nuts? No.
- Is Light Elegance Vegan, containing no animal products at all? Yes it is Vegan.
- Is Light Elegance cruelty free in manufacturing and testing? They do not test/use on animals in any circumstance.
- Does Light Elegance have any fragrances? Not for hard gels.
- Where is Light Elegance made? U.S.A.
- Does it Contain Dibutyl Phthalate? No.
- Does it Contain Toluene? No.
- Does it Contain Formaldehyde? No.
- Does it Contain Formaldehyde Resin? No.
- Does it Contain Camphor? No.
- Does it Contain Parabens? No.
- Does it Contain Xylene? No.
- Will it burn me at any point? Gels burn me so I love/hate them: No, unless your nail tech is careless and does not tell you when to withdraw your hands/put your hands into the UV light. The UV light (all nail UV lights) operate at UV number 365, which is way below anything that could remotely damage your skin/nails. It’s the equivalent of spending about 17 to 26 seconds in sunlight each day of the two weeks in between nail appointments. You and I do that anyway, so don’t sweat it.
- How long does it last? Two to three weeks generally, providing you don’t use your nails as can openers, screwdrivers, chew toys for yourself, or other tools you should not be using your nails for 🙂
- How often should this be done on my nails? Every two weeks for best results.
- How is this different than hard gels I can buy myself? Light Elegance cracks down on people trying to sell their product on sites like Amazon.com and only sells to licensed professionals. They have more colors available for naturally appearing gel nails than other companies you can buy from online.
- How much does the first application cost and subsequent applications? Starting at $40 for a full set, and starting at $20 for fills.
- How long does it take? An hour for a full set from a skilled technician, even with filing everything by hand. If they apply product correctly, they don’t need to file much.
- Why should I have a set of hard gels on instead of acrylics? Acrylics are cheaper!
- Gels bend with your nail, so as it grows out the sides will not lift away from your gel product. Remember how you would go in for a fill and the nail tech would glue down the sides of your nail at the edge? That doesn’t happen with gels.
- Gels are incredibly lightweight to wear, and don’t look like lego blocks on your fingers, even when the nail tech is not very experienced in applying them.
- They’re versatile; if you need just light nail support, medium, or ‘OMG I love how hard my acrylics are’, then there’s a gel for that.
- Acrylics have to be of a certain thickness to not peel off or crack, they have to be mixed by your tech on demand perfectly or they won’t form/air cure correctly; gels are already made perfectly in the pots, all your tech has to do is open it and apply it.
- GELS DO NOT STINK, there’s no monomer (the liquid part of the acrylic system mixed with the powder) used!
- Nail techs that learn how to apply hard gels are devoted to their profession. Gels are NOT taught in beauty school. Nail techs spend hundreds of dollars (99% of the time their own personal money) on classes and product a year to learn how to apply hard gels. These are the type of people you want helping you look your personal best.
Ok so now that I feel I have answered all the possible client questions about hard gel with Light Elegance hard gels in particular, let’s get our science and math groove on and dig into the technical details of this product!
Questions from a nail tech perspective:
- Are the MSDS available? Yes, on their website. Use this link to download the sheets: MSDS
- Where is this Light Elegance hard gel from that I used for this review? I bought this product from Light Elegance after corresponding with the co-founder Jim about some questions I had about gels that I couldn’t find on their FAQ page. I also bought some from the Premiere show, and from the workshop I took.
- How is it applied?
- Prep with cleanser and lint free wipe
- With a LIGHT touch…loosen excess cuticle tissue from nail plate, around the eponychium and lateral folds.
- With a light touch, remove shine with a 150 grit file. A little goes a long way, do not use the file like you are buffing out finger sized splinters out of a fallen tree log. GO EASY TIGER *lulz*.
- Remove file dust with more cleanser/lint free wipe.
- Apply whatever bonder you are using of theirs onto the natural nail plate. Cure for 2 minutes UV or 30 seconds LED if it’s not the Airbond bonder. The only lamps that work are Light Elegance or CND lamps. I am serious.
- When using forms, create your free edge first, cure 2 minutes. I like using thicker gels for that, and thinner ones for the nailbed gel.
- Apply slip layer of gel (super thin) over entire nail.
- Apply the gel that you’re using for building the nail bed, remember its self leveling (except for the builder) so as it cures it’s going to spread out on the nail. It is a LOT easier to apply more each layer than to overload the nail with gel and have so much sidewall to file off. Cure 2 minutes UV or 30 seconds LED. For self leveling gels you have to apply a pearl at the stress point and have the client hold their hands upside down to cure for 3 seconds, then flip them back over to cure the rest of the time.
- Apply top coat gel, cure 2 minutes UV or 30 seconds LED.
- Remove inhibition layer with Cleanser (unless you are using Top Gloss) and lint free wipe down and away from the cuticle.
- How much is it?
Gel: $40/pot …They have trial kits to help you save money and decide on which ones you want to buy more of in larger pots.
Oval brush $12 and it’s made out of nylon (vegan – woot!). You just press out the gel on a wipe to clean it. No dipping it into a solvent or anything like you had to do with acrylic brushes. It says gel polish, but it’s bigger and flatter than the regular oval brush so it makes handling the gel easier. I bought four and color coded the handle with paint to keep myself from going insane trying to remember which was my brush with the free edge gel , the nailbed gel , the pink gel, the white gel, the clear gel…/headdesk.
Lamp $130 each or use your old/new CND UV/LED lamp. Only CND and Light Elegance lamps work with this gel.
- Where do I learn how to apply this? You can become familiar with this product by doing their workshops at beauty shows, watch their videos, or, you know, read the directions *lulz*. Their spokesperson Celina Ryden also has an incredible Instagram account stuffed full of tutorials and nail trends since Light Elegance is the only line she uses for her gel nails. She’s really funny, I laugh so hard at the faces she makes while trying to say something polite to an lazy question that I actually snort.
- What are the ingredients? Since there are so many different items in their gel line, I’m just going to say refer to the MSDS link I offered earlier to see the ingredients for whatever item you want to take a closer look at.
- Why should I offer this in my salon?
You’re sick of stinking like monomer and want to have scent sensitive people become your client.
You don’t like the constant product discontinuation/lack of thorough product testing before launch from CND.
You want a line made in the USA that’s also cruelty free and vegan while brilliantly colored, then this would be the line for you.
My only beef with it is that it still uses UV as the main curing means, and everyone else in the industry has moved onto LED. But…but. I am slow as shit in applying gel, so a two minute curing time is not a big deal. When I open my salon though, time is literally money. So this is an issue for what I am planning to do in my career. Unless like they get their LED lamp out and whatever. That and their labeling leaves much to be desired. I’m getting old, I don’t dig squinting anymore dude. Color code the jars to indicate viscosity or something.
- Is there a fume factor? No. It’s very slight. Pretty much everything makes my nose run in irritation, so this is an important question for me to ask a manufacturer.
- ZOMG I’m not good at gels/scared of new nail products. How easy was it to apply? This is something to really, REALLY practice during your downtime in-between appointments before you offer it to clients. It can get really thick and get too hot while curing, your standard 50-100-150 files will cut through it like room temperature butter so you can unfortunately file down to the nailbed much faster than you think, and if you manipulate gel too much, it’ll get ugly little bubbles in it that are hard to work out.
Now comes the part where I think you all will find the most useful, and what I wished was on their website. Here are what the different parts of their system gels do (since I couldn’t figure it out from their website). There’s three primers, three top coats, and so many different gels to pick from…not including any of the opaque, colored hard gels they have.
I read the info on the website and was like, WTF do I even order? What do these even do? Do I use all of them together?!? SHIT, SHIT, SHIT!
Then I attended the workshop and annoyed Jim for 5 minutes while he kept pulling my UV bulb out of and back into my old bessie CND UV lamp and I know what all of them do *lulz*.
Be glad that I spent so much time on this next section. It was a total pain to assemble. If you’re not glad, then I don’t want to hear it, not today. Stupid WordPress.
Cleanser (A straight forward name, no?):
From the smell is just 99% isopropyl alcohol, which you can get from a medical supply distributor. The same company you get lint free wipes, cotton pegs to separate toes, and nitrate gloves from. If you don’t have a medical supply distributor, I will create a post of how to set up an account with which companies to avoid, because you are getting robbed honey. Oh, and don’t get 91% isopropyl alcohol, it won’t work as well with that.
You use this to disinfect the nail plate, dehydrate it, wipe off your inhibition (sticky) layer from the topcoat. I have heard some techs using acetone for all of those things too, but I haven’t personally done that. I figure I’m still learning the core process of gels, I’m not going to put variables into the process until I gain more experience and have consistent results by the book first. It would be nice to not have to buy both when my salon opens though.
Dries in 15 seconds, very good for people with oily skin/constant hand washing/humid climates. Thin viscosity like an acrylic primer. You don’t cure it in the lamp. It is also the same primer for their acrylics.
Standard primer, works well with plastic nail tips. Thin viscosity like acrylic primer.
Comes in clear or pink. Good for thick nailed clients, also acts as a base gel coat since it fills lines and ridges on the nail plate. It’s a thin gel, but thicker than the other bonders. For best results, lightly scrub it into the nail plate with your brush to really fill those ridges up.
Light Elegance and CND UV lamps are the only compatible lamp for Light Elegance gels. They are working on an LED lamp that should be out I think at the workshop they said this Autumn.
The gel is antibacterial because there is no sulfur or oxygen in it from the container of gel for bacteria to grow, and when you close the lid, there’s no light for it to grow from either. I know, I know, you just looked up and to the left to remember your biology class back in the day to confirm what I just said.
Light Elegance gel has a shelf life of 10 years. All of their gels are hypoallergenic, and Light Elegance gel has a 94% conversion rate as opposed to OPI at 64%, or CND at 70%. The higher the conversion rate (rate that the gel cures under light), then the less chance it will crack.
The ‘building a nail’ type gels are in silver ‘pots’ or ‘jars’ lined in black to keep uv exposure to a minimum. The colored gels are in black on black pots and are much smaller. You can tell how thick the viscosity of the gel is by how narrowly it drips off of the brush, as you can see in the images below.
First let’s go over the clears for viscosity and function purposes, then talk about which clear ones also come in pinks and/or whites. Each category header will be hyperlinked to the corresponding page on LightElegance.com
Very thin viscosity self leveling gel that cures to a high shine, just needs light buffing. Good for clients that just want a little stronger support than nail polish provides. It can also be used as a top coat. Good for toenails too (I use this on mine since they can peel deep on the sides of my sidewalls).
1-Step Gel: Thin viscosity self leveling gel that’s thicker than Mani-Cure gel that cures to a high shine. Does base builder and top coat in one step…hence the name.
Cool Gel: Medium viscosity self leveling gel that has little to no heat spike. Nice for manicures that need more strength than Mani-Cure or 1-Step can provide, and for sensitive nails. I use this one on my nailbiting clients for their nail plate if they’re really stubby nubs.
Fiber: Medium/thick viscosity self leveling gel infused with fiberglass. This is the only gel that looks cloudy, so I reserve it for long extensions or “I’m used to my acrylics” type clients.
Extreme: Medium/Thick viscosity self leveling gel used for anything really.
Builder: Thick viscosity non self leveling gel used for building and sculpting. This is nice to use if you’re used to just working with acrylic and are new to working with gel. You can shove it around a lot like you could your acrylic ball.
Pinks, Listed from Brightest to Most Natural Nail Plate Color
I couldn’t get good pictures of the different pinks, so I linked to them for you to see yourself. I thought it was important for people to know not all colors come in every viscosity.
Mani-Cure Gel: Clear only.
Whites, Listed from the Brightest to the Most Natural Nail Color
Super Shiny 15 Two minute cure, shines up like crazy under LED. Won’t discolor or fade. 15 is for the size, 15 ml. There’s a 60 ml one also to fill the 15 bottle. Wipe inhibition layer off with Cleanser.
So, how do you contact Light Elegance if you have more questions?
Customer Experience: Light Elegance is a cosmetics line based in Oregon. I personally emailed them to ask all my product questions, then I tried FaceBook Messenger, and finally I called them
Experience when contacting via email: Meh. Multiple unanswered emails in late December.
Experience when contacting via FaceBook Messenger: Really meh. Took a couple weeks for a response. Once I got a response it answered my questions, but it seems like the internet is not a good way to contact them.
Experience when contacting via phone: Immediate help. This is the best way to talk to them. Well, that or in person. They actively listen and deeply know their products. I don’t like phone discussions though because I hate repeating my questions, or forgetting what they told me. So I have to note that for myself with my own career plans happening next year.
Overall I like this company, although they need to get cracking with the LED lamp thing, getting A game customer service reps for their online correspondences, and figure out a better way to label their products. Unless you like squinting, it’s really obnoxious to have to read each jar to know what’s in it. They should be color coded to viscosity or something. But those are little things. I’d rather have those quibbles than burning my fingers off using the product.
Have you used Light Elegance? Is there another gel company you use that you like? Let me know in the comments!