Trends cycle in and out, and what’s currently in is cycling skin care, hair care and now nail care. Nail cycling entails taking a break from acrylics, gels and powders. Our nails, like everything else, could use a break sometimes. However, when it comes to the benefits of nail cycling, experts are split on whether or not the practice is really necessary. We had them hash it out here so you can decide for yourself.
Do experts recommend nail cycling?
Just because something is trending doesn’t mean it’s right for you. “Nail cycling is something that has to be more about individual preference and based solely on the condition of your natural nails,” says LECHAT brand director Anastasia Totty. She explains that we all have different genetics, lifestyles and beauty regimens, so it’s not one size fits all. “You have to make the right decision based on facts, good science and expert opinion,” she says.
“If you are someone that loves a gel manicure or doing more intense treatments to your nails, then I would absolutely recommend nail cycling. I would also recommend cycling if you feel like your nails need hydration and/or strengthening,” says celebrity manicurist and founder of the eponymous brand Deborah Lippmann. “If you feel that your nails cannot be left completely naked in fear that they might just bend and break, use this opportunity to add a strengthening coat and spend some time nail cycling to help improve the strength and hydration in your nails.” During the downtime, Lippmann likes to opt for regular polish or a healthier gel alternative like Gel Lab Pro Nail Polish ($20).
Is nail cycling necessary?
Co-founder and styling director of CND Jan Arnold goes so far as to call nail cycling a myth. She says, “the concept that nails need time in-between manicures to ‘breathe’ is unfounded.” According to Arnold, regular manicures can actually be helpful for those with weak nails prone to breakage.
Totty says she hopes nail cycling doesn’t become a trend. Instead she wants to see it used as a tool for the people that might need it. Nail cycling trending would mean “nail techs are not encouraging proper aftercare and using safe manicuring practices,” says Totty. She explains that natural nails grow and regenerate quicker than bleached hair or skin post-chemical peel. “Even damaged nails recover easier when a good soak-off base gel is applied to protect and give strength and shine and keep them from staining,” says Totty.
The benefits of nail cycling
Nail cycling promotes thicker, healthier nails, according to Lippmann. “Gel manicures, or other strong treatments for your nails, especially when done consistently, can cause your nails to get thinner, dehydrated and ultimately bend and break,” says Lippmann. “When your nails are healthy and hydrated, there is very minimal breakage, and your nail polish tends to last longer without chipping,” she adds. Totty says other benefits include “allowing the keratin layers in your nail plate to stay strong and avoid exposure to chemicals.”
How to nail cycle
Lippmann says a good rule of thumb would be to give nails a week to breathe every six to eight weeks of gel manicures as “a great way to keep yourself on track to healthier nails.” Alternatively, Totty says nail cycling can be done as needed. “If you see any issues with your natural nails after months of gel manicures (assuming that they were properly done and removed), then a break is definitely necessary, maybe even a change of product,” says Totty. “Once the natural nails have recovered from the removal process and you don’t see any weak spots or damage, you can opt to get another manicure or full set of gel/ acrylic nails until the next break.”
Technically, a full nail cycle would entail “letting the natural nail plate regenerate and replenish natural oils and nutrients,” says Totty. “For a full nail plate regrowth, it would take up to three months, so if you are serious about cycling, it may be a while before you can rock your next gel manicure.” It’s worth noting that Totty says once you go back to gel, issues may return.
If you do partake in nail cycling, Lippmann recommends taking advantage of the naked nail moment by applying treatments that hydrate and strengthen nails and cuticles. Lippmann suggests a nail strengthener like Hard Rock ($22) and cuticle oil.
Signs of unhealthy nails
Healthy nails appear well-moisturized and devoid of peeling, drying, yellowing, stains, dark spots and bruising, says Totty. “The nail plate has to look even without visible damage,” she adds. “If you run your hand in cold or hot water, they shouldn’t be sensitive.”
More ways to keep your nails healthy
If you’re committed to keeping up your gel nail appointments consistent, there are other ways you can look out for your nail health. Totty says, “Having a nail technician who is dedicated and knowledgeable, uses the same quality products and cares about your nails is essential.” Then once your nails are done, following through with the proper care is on you. Think: “lots of cuticle oil, no mechanical damage and timely scheduling of your appointments,” says Totty.
Using products that focus on nail health the same way we do with skin care is crucial. “Regardless of any nail service or product you may or may not have on your nails, it’s vital to use a daily care product, like CND SolarOil ($10), to keep nails healthy and cuticles conditioned,” says Arnold.
Totty notes that gel manicures themselves don’t inherently damage nails. “What can be damaging is a poor removal process such as peeling off [your polish] or if your nail tech uses a product that does not fit quality standards and may contain harmful chemicals.”
Additionally, your diet plays a role in your nail health. Totty recommends “proper hydration throughout your day, a good multivitamin, biotin and lots of cuticle oil. It sounds simple, but it’s extremely important that these factors are part of a healthy balanced lifestyle.”