Gel manicures have taken the beauty world by storm, but they’re not quite an easy routine to uphold. Yes, they last even my own busiest weeks without signs of wear, but they can get pricy to maintain, a bitch to get off, and over time can cause damage to the nails.
As someone with very little patience to go to the salon, but wanting presentable and long-lasting nails, it’s been hard to find the right solution. So when I heard about Sephora’s The System XCEL, I needed to try it ASAP. Boasting chip resistant gel-like shine and 10 day wear, I was hoping this could be the answer to all of my nail woes.
The System XCEL comes with four bottles in the kit:
- CLEANSE XCEL to help prep with a clean slate by removing oils while conditioning your nails
- PRIME XCEL to use as a base coat to help polish adhere better and longer, as well as protect your nail from staining and infusing it with keratin for strength
- SHINE XCEL is a fast drying top coat that is fortified with acrylic to seal in color and provide a gel-like shine, protection and strength.
- Your choice of any one Formula X polish
It may seem like a lot, with four steps and all, but I personally find relaxation in doing my nails and the process actually took less time than expected since each layer dries quickly when applied in thin layers. Really, all you need is a thin layer of each because they are all so potent, and Formula X polishes are incredibly pigmented. The shade I tested was “TGIF” which is an almost-coral pink that’s bright and fun.
After my first application, I was incredibly impressed with how the manicure turned out. I’m pretty clumsy when it comes to my nails, which is why I prefer press-ons when I absolutely need them to look amazing, but even though my nail beds were a mess from a botched gel removal they turned out looking GREAT after The System XCEL. The prep steps really helped the color take to my nail without revealing my ridges and imperfections, and the top coat sealed it in for a very sleek and shiny finish that could definitely be mistaken for salon quality.
Unfortunately, I did start seeing chips on day two, and my mani was pretty much done for by day 5 which is shown in the photo above. The polish had been worn off all of the tips, and it started peeling from the sides of the nail. I admit, I’m hard on my nails with my typing, cleaning, and general clumsiness. Salon gel manicures usually last about 9 days on me, for reference. While I loved how the manicure looked with the system, it definitely didn’t last the 10 days I had hoped for. It was also incredibly easy to take off using the Delete All 5 Finger Nail Polish Remover, which makes the polish just slip right off in about 10 seconds flat.
I’ll still be using this system because I find it a quick way to get an amazing looking manicure no matter what shape my nails are in, and is very much a bargain for a full manicure set at only $32 (coming out to $8 per bottle). For someone who’s a little bit more gentle on their hands, this would probably last a lot longer than it did on me. It’s still a great alternative to going to the salon because you’ll get a ton of use out of the bottles and it does give a professional finish. I would just consider it a normal manicure that looks like gel, rather than performing like gel.
You can find The System XCEL in stores and online at Sephora.