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NEXT-GEN GEL NAILS

FASHION CRITIC

When it comes to nails, I’ll try anything in pursuit of a longer-lasting perfect manicure. So when I heard about the new Gelife treatment at the Dashing Diva salon chain, I was game. Gelife promised to be a kinder, gentler way to get a glossy, hard finish that lasts for several weeks. The salon claims Gelife is less damaging than traditional UV-cured gel polymers, which must be aggressively filed and pried off, and that it even contains nail-strengthening calcium salts.

I had never been to a Dashing Diva salon, and I found the atmosphere of the Pasadena location to be clean and inviting. (Technicians heat-sterilize their tools and use sinks instead of whirlpool tubs, which can be bacteria breeding grounds.) If Hollywood designed a nail salon set, this would be it. Lots of pink and white, a tea bar -- there’s even a weekly Girls Night Out with free cocktails.

After cleaning and shaping my nails, the technician applied three coats of Gelife, curing each layer for two minutes under UV light. I chose a French manicure, but the white tips were not painted lines -- they were perfectly shaped adhesives pressed onto the nails using contoured plastic applicators.

In a little under an hour I was ready to go, with no drying time. The Gelife manicure comes in three colors -- clear, warm pink and cool pink -- for $35 and includes a removal kit.

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My nails felt hard but not too hard, and stayed neat and tidy even through a few nail-biting deadline days when I was pounding the keyboard.

The first sign of trouble was six days out, when I was wrestling with a crab leg at dinner, and one of the French tip adhesives peeled off. A second one came off the next night. I finally removed the Gelife after 12 days -- but only because the white tips had started to go.

If I had gone with a regular Gelife manicure instead, I’m sure I could have pushed it past the two-week mark. But what I would really like to have is red nails that last that long. Pattie Yankee, head technical educator of Dashing Diva, which has 33 locations worldwide, tells me the company is developing more Gelife colors for fall.

The removal process wasn’t bad either. I saturated several cotton balls in acetone, pressed them onto my nails and wrapped my fingers in tinfoil a la Freddy Krueger. The foil is supposed to generate heat to loosen the polymer gel, and it did. In less than 10 minutes, I was able to wipe my nails clean.

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The best part is that my natural nails don’t feel any weaker for having had the Gelife acrylics. They actually feel stronger. I’ll drink to that.

Dashing Diva Gelife manicure, $35, Dashing Diva. 27 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, (626) 449-3482. See www.dashingdiva.com for more locations.

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booth.moore@latimes.com

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