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While long, elegant nails are a goal for many, the reality of growing them is easier said than done. That’s why gel extension manicures have risen in popularity for POPSUGAR editors and nail aficionados alike, especially since the lengths, shapes, and polish options are pretty much endless with this nail technique. However, the real benefit of gel extensions is simply to add a durable and strong tip to your natural nail, with less damage done than with an acrylic application.

You’ve probably heard the term “gel-X manicure” floating around, but chances are you have a lot of questions about what exactly it entails. Even more so, is this buzzy new nail trend safe? Easy to remove? Can you develop a gel-x nail allergy?

To help answer your questions, we tapped nail artist Britney Tokyo, who works on the nails of celebs like Charli D’Amelio, Halsey, and Rita Ora, to give us the down-low on everything you need to know before getting a gel extension manicure. Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons and application, as well as how gel extensions differ from acrylic nails.

What Are Gel Nail Extensions?

While there are several different brands making gel extensions, Apres Gel-X is a favorite among nail artists. The extension itself is a clear overlay made from soft gel that’s already in a nail form, which is attached over the entirety of your natural nail. They’re cured with UV light in the same way as a regular gel manicure. The nail forms come in a variety of different shapes (like coffin, stiletto, round, and square) and lengths that can be customized to your liking.

“They are not only thin and lightweight but also durable and strong, which is why they’re so comfortable to wear,” said Tokyo. She also said that pretty much anyone can get a Gel-X manicure since they cover your entire nail all the way to the nail bed. Many people with long nails also wear Gel-X as a protective overlay.

What Are the Benefits of Gel-X?

One of the main reasons people choose Gel-X is for their natural look, and the durability. They’re much thinner than an acrylic nail, and can be shaped to contour to your specific nail shape. Plus, they’re much more gentle on your natural nails because it uses nonacid based products.

“All of the gel products are made of soft gel, so Gel-X sets can be easily soaked off,” said Tokyo. “And for a nail artist, Gel-X saves us a lot of time – all the hard work of extensions is already done for me.” Depending on the complexity of the nail art you’re getting, you can be out of your Gel-X nail appointment in under an hour.