It is finally time for my long promised review of the Sally Hansen gel strips. Before my Hawaii trip, I bought a starter kit, which includes a cute little LED lamp, gel polish strips, gel top coat, two cleanser wipes, a mini cuticle stick, and a mini buffer/file. The starter kits come in a choice of three colors: light pink, red, and wine. I chose the light pink, Shell We Dance, since I'd never used these before and if they were going to chip, I wanted a color that wouldn't show it too much.
Because this was my first time, I read and mostly followed the directions (I skipped the part about buffing my nail surface because I don't think that helps my peelies one bit). Applying the strips was just like applying the non-gel ones. The one surprise was how sheer these were; I expect that's a function of the color rather than a characteristic of all of the gel strips. Like the regular strips, these are packed in two sealed packs; my nails were short enough that I could cut them in half and get a whole mani out of just one of the packs. The instructions say to apply the strips to all nails, doing the thumbs last, before moving on to the next step. That next step is the gel top coat, which you apply to one nail, including wrapping the tip of the free edge, then put your finger in the lamp (which is only big enough for one finger anyway) and press the button on top. The light comes on and feels a little bit warm, then shuts off by itself after 30 seconds. After all nails have been in the lamp, they're oddly sticky, but that's where the cleanser pad comes in. A swipe of that takes away the sticky feeling. When I was done, I could see a few spots where it looked like I hadn't smoothed the strip down quite firmly enough, and another couple where I'd gotten the product on my skin‐the color blended in so well with my palesness it was hard to spot the problems, though. Overall, it just looked clean and shiny, and so much more conservative than my usual nail looks.
On the first full day I wore these strips, I lost control of my pen at work and drew an ugly black line on one of my nails. When it didn't rub off with a tissue, I was annoyed that I'd have to redo that nail, but then I remembered there were alcohol wipes in the first aid kit and one of those took the ink right off. Whew!
After 6 days of wear, I was seeing what looked like tipwear on a few fingers, but on closer inspection, that was due to my old nemesis Mr. Peelies. The strips that were on nails that weren't peeling looked just fine.
After 12 days of wear, the most noticeable issue was the widening gap at the base of my nail due to growth. The strips themselves were hanging in, not lifting or chipping (except where the nail underneath them was flaking off due to the aforementioned peelies). Considering I'd spent some of those days swimming around in salt water or pool water, I was even more impressed.
After 14 days, I couldn't make myself wait any longer to take them off; the gap was really starting to bother me. Here's my right hand just before I removed the strips; I'm showing this because you may be able to see some fine cracks in the strip on my middle finger, which I got when I jammed that nail into something (a wall?, a suitcase handle?—I don't recall what exactly) hard enough to bend it and the strip on top so much that it broke. Still, it didn't chip off.
The directions actually recommend the foil method for removal; they don't call it the "foil method", but that's what it is. I went with something new I've read about: the finger cot or finger condom method, which uses rubber finger protectors in place of the foil to hold the acetone-saturated cotton pieces against the nail. It worked great; I let them soak for about five minutes and most of the gel wiped right off. (And the finger condoms didn't disintegrate, either.) The directions talk about pushing the softened gel off with the cuticle stick, but I didn't find that was necessary; I just used a cotton pad and remover clean up the bits that were left after the condoms came off.
Overall, I was very impressed with the wear time on these. They are more expensive to buy and somewhat less convenient to apply than the regular strips (I have put the regular ones on in public places but wouldn't try that with the gel top coat), but for some situations, like a long trip, I'll use them again, as I think they hold up better than the regular strips. Now I'm interested to try some of the designs they have in the gel strips.