CalGel: The Safer (But Way More Expensive) Alternative to Acrylic Nails

For months, I typed in the Google search engine “safe fake nails” and for months, I found nothing. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough, because one day, on the random, I decided that there had to be a nail salon in New York City that had concocted some safe, less harmful version of the acrylic nail. It’s NYC for goodness sake.

CalGel only popped up on the 5th Google page result. Getting even more specific, I prayed to the nail Goddesses that a Black owned salon (what few of them are left in NYC) would be able to provide this service so I could offer my patronage.

The Goddess answered.

Very Polished Lounge was booked all weekend, so I stepped in on a Monday with Marie, my manicurist. She’s lovely. She also knows every song that comes on the radio. She looked at my nails and noted how strong they were. I told her I really hate having to worry if my nail is going to break because I’m snatching a soul on the dance floor, feeling like Beyonce. She understood and agreed that CalGel would be the best bet.

So, here I introduce you #BBGals to CalGel overlays. The non-odor, less harmful but way more expensive version of the acrylic nails. At $75 for a set ($50 for a fill-in), I went in for the kill.

Established in 1981 in South Africa, the CalGel system was created to be a gentle and thin application, made to look natural. The CalGels don’t chip. They don’t peel and they also don’t strip your nail beds. They are a gas-permeable formula that won’t damage your nail metabolism, and pretty much last for about 4 weeks. You can change the nail polish with non-acetone remover (unlike Shellac or other gel nails). Your nails will feel somewhat flexible, not as hard as they do with acrylics. Your nails will also be able to breathe under the overlay. The process is similar to that of the acrylic overlay, except your nails aren’t filed down to the max, and your lungs aren’t tarnished from the odor.

calgel nails

So, why hasn’t the entire world of nail salons caught on? Most likely because the service is so expensive. Acrylics are cost-efficient. But, after a horrible allergic reaction to my last acrylic set, I gave them up completely. Plus, I found enough research on how toxic acrylic odors and formulas can be, and it just made me want to invest $75 into my nails.

It was worth it for me. After one month, and a tiny space between the overlay and my cuticle that signaled a fill-in, I’m back with my second set and obsessed with my nails.

Now, I just need a summer bae so I can wave my fingers in his face while bopping to Beyonce’s “Sorry”.


NYC salons that offer CalGels:

Very Polished Lounge (Black owned)

Ph7 Nail Couture


Sakura Nail and Spa

Oh My Nails!