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Nail Artist Melanie McCulley Gives Us the Scoop on Gels

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Photo courtesy of Melanie McCulley.
Photo courtesy of Melanie McCulley.

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When we met Gelish nail artist and mobile manicurist Melanie McCulley during the Alice + Olivia spring denim preview last week, we have to admit that we were a bit intimidated by her piercing blue-green eyes. But when she started talking and instantly welcomed us into her fascinated world of gels, we knew that everything was going to be alright. While giving us our very first shiny, chipless, magical Gelish manicure, we asked her our top questions about this all-the-rage nail art phenomenon and more.

Have you always wanted to be a nail artist?
"I've been doing this for almost 15 years. I come from a family of six hairdressers, so when I was in high school I thought that it was what I wanted to do as well—especially since they made really great money. But when I eventually went to cosmetology school, I realized that I actually hated hairdressing and dropped out. I guess you can say that I'm a real beauty school dropout! [Laughs] I decided to try nails instead, and it was love at first sight. I got my nail license and haven't stopped since."

What are your thoughts on all the crazy nail art coming out these days?
"I love that people are having fun with it! Nail art is a great way to express yourself without having to make a long-term commitment. You can change your nail color by the week or day. I say keep the creativity coming. I remember when I was a teenager, the big thing was to drill a little hole in your nail like a piercing and put a tiny hoop in. That was such a cute trend! I wish it would make a comeback. Anyway, yes, I love nail art because when you're feeling down, getting your nails done is pretty much the best pick-me-up you can ever have. It's like therapy!"

What are your thoughts on nail polish strips? Is that considered cheating?
"Not at all! I think strips are a great alternative for people who can't afford to go get a $65 custom mani done. Nail art should be accessible to everyone."

Have you ever used polish strips or any other quick-fixes yourself?
"That's how I started loving nail art in the first place. I was a nail-biter as a kid, so when I was 12 or 13 I would save my allowance money and go to the grocery store to buy Lee Press-on Nails so that I can do my own little acrylics at home. [Laughs] Actually, I still use the stickies from those press-on sets for shoots. Instead of super-gluing nail extensions on the model's hands, I stick them on with stickies so that she can just rip them off when the shoot is over."

How thoughtful. Now, let's talk gels. What sets Gelish soak-off polish apart from other gel nail treatments out there?
"I've been with Gelish for nearly a year, and I love it. I can stand behind the brand and know that when I apply it to any of my clients' nails, it's going to be awesome. Gelish is also the thinnest product I've ever used—and I've used many. Because the formula is very thin and because it's cured by a five-second setting and a 30-second setting, the process is very fast and efficient. I can do a full gel manicure in half the time it takes to do it with UV light curing equipment. "

Does the treatment harm your nails at all?
"Absolutely not! It's the best and safest option for natural-nailed girls that really want to make their color last, chip-free. But when you're ready to take them off, remember to go to a professional so that they can properly soak the gel off your nails."

How long does a gel mani last?
"It lasts about two to three weeks. I say two to three because everyone's homecare is different and everyone's PH is different. Obviously, if you're a picker or in the water a lot, it won't last as long."

What about gel pedicures?
"I recommend a Gelish pedi mostly for spring and summer seasons when feet take more of a beating in sandals and sand. The gel keeps for up to four weeks on toes and stays super shiny."

What are some popular gel nail colors right now?
"It would definitely have to be our just-launched Gelish spring line called Candy Land. The collection features six super bright colors that are just gorge."

Where can we get Gelish nails in LA?
"There are so many places to choose from! Check out their store locator. Or, if you're interested in a mobile Gelish manicure, contact me anytime!"

· Nail Harmony [Official Site]
· Well-Manicured [Official Site]
· Alice + Olivia Salutes Spring Denim with MUFE and Gelish [Racked]