“Nail Plumping” Is The Biggest Manicure Innovation Of 2021

Today’s salon manicure typically includes five basic treatment options: You can go with a traditional polish (or nail lacquer), gel or shellac, dip powder, gel extensions, or acrylics. Now, there is an innovative sixth treatment that’s recently hit the market — a hybrid offer that marries the application and wear of a gel manicure with the aesthetic of extensions. Meet the Plexigel manicure.

Creative Nail Design (CND) trademarked the Plexigel system, and it was rolled out across CND-affiliate nail salons nationwide in January of this year. According to the nail-care brand, this is their biggest technological innovation since the launch of Shellac back in 2010.

But the same way that it took a few years for the consumer to fully understand the merits (and drawbacks) of the gel manicure, the Plexigel system might sound intimidating to a first-timer. However, if you’re already familiar with soft gels, the Plexigel manicure looks almost identical.

At a recent appointment to try my own set of Plexigels, nail artist and educator Julie Kandalec explained the key point of differentiation: While a traditional soft-gel formula simply sits on top of the natural nail, Plexigel can change its shape. Like cement before it dries, the thick and malleable Plexigel formula can be sculpted (by a trained salon professional) to extend the natural nail longer or add “plumpness.”

“Plexigel is a semi-hard gel, which means it’s significantly more durable than soft gel,” Kandalec explains. She shows me the colorless glass bottle that holds the self-leveling clear gel formula that drips off the nail brush like honey. “The system is designed to be a multi-problem solver for flat, brittle, or torn nails. The Plexigel is a flexible yet tough coating that glides on to plump, lengthen, or repair a multitude of nail issues. It also protects the natural nail underneath the enhancement.”

The manicure was as advertised. It involved careful shaping, polishing, and curing under an LED lamp before Kandalec added the best part: nail art. I opted for a baby-blue French manicure, inspiration from a friend’s mani I recently saw and became obsessed with. Her tips were a darker royal blue, but given the warmer weather, I wanted a pastel and opted for periwinkle (CND’s Chance Taker).

I’m only on week one of my Plexigel manicure, but I’ve been told this will last for at least three without lifting or peeling. It feels exactly like a soft gel, but with a little more shape and sculpture. I’m very much into it. Though, admittedly, I also was an early proponent of shellac.

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