Glossing Over It

7th April 2017

Jill Glenn has long believed that life’s too short for professional manicures. However, after trying out a new nail-strengthening treatment, she ponders that it might just be time to revise that opinion…

When I was a small girl, my mother had something of an obsession with the half moon shapes on my fingernails. She was forever pressing and pushing at them (gently, of course) to make them more prominent – and she took great care to cut and file my nails nicely. They say that if you cultivate good habits in childhood they’ll last you a lifetime, but, sadly, that proved wrong. I hated the sound and dusty sensation of the nail file (still do, to tell you the truth), and even before I left home at 18 I’d decided that life was too short to spend too much time fathoming out what all the other tools in my little manicure set were for. I discovered clippers, kept my nails neat and functional and was happy. Ish.

Not elegant, though. Of late, I’ve been taking sidelong glances at other people’s hands… stylish, smart, groomed. I’ve become a fingernail fetishist. I took to sitting with my nails concealed (while simultaneously appreciating that this was a ridiculous state of affairs)… so when the opportunity to try a nail repair and treatment system arose I had my hand up and on show before you could say IBX.

IBX is a penetrating, curable monomer system… the definition might not trip off the tongue, but the potential benefits of this innovative two-part treatment (Strengthen and Repair) are easy to understand: under gel polish IBX creates a protective shield for the nail, and as a natural nail growth treatment, it is used to repair severe nail damage to set the stage for growth, and to toughen the upper layers of the nail plate. Multiple treatments promise to fill up deep grooves, delivering a smoother surface – and the system will improve the natural appearance and colour of the nail.

This I could justify. It wasn’t that my nails were in poor condition, just that they needed some love, and not from me. My skills had already proved inadequate.

Despite my willingness to give it a go, I’ll admit to being more than a little apprehensive about the whole idea, though. You hear terrible things about nail bars – poor hygiene, for example, and cavalier working practices – so I’m delighted when I step inside Glossbar, on King Street, Watford, to discover that it is as light and bright as its name implies. Hygiene is Glossbar’s watchword, and it promises ‘an ultra-clean and relaxing environment’, with a focus on ‘promoting natural nail health’. The atmosphere is friendly, but superbly professional. This place is easy to love.

Technician Mihaela first shapes and files the nail (I try not to wince) and then cleanses it before beginning the process, which, for all its complex chemical action, is surprisingly straightforward. Now, I’m no scientist, but I have grasped one of the key things about IBX. It’s not just another surface nail treatment – it’s designed to sink into the nail and cure under the surface as well. It bonds to itself and not to the keratin in the nail plate, so it reduces the risk of brittleness. And because of where it sits, it lasts between polish or gel removals, so its action is ongoing. It creates reinforcement within the top layers of the nail, to generate an ‘interpenetrating polymer network.’

It needs specific conditions before it penetrates (which is why you want to be very confident that there’s a professional on the other side of the bench): thin application onto a dry nail, a gentle heat, blotting, and then curing with UV light. It’s quick and easy: a couple of minutes for each stage. And that’s it. You could stop there (IBX is perfect as a standalone treatment for creating glossy, healthy natural nails)… or you could stay in your seat for a shellac gel applcation. I have two IBX treatments, separated by a fortnight, and can’t resist the shellac on either occasion.

The first time round I opt for Oxblood; I am as beguiled by the name as I am by the colour itself, a deep, dark crimson that attracts plenty of attention and approval from friends and colleagues. I can’t take my eyes off it. I rather think my mother would have been impressed by the shape and style of my hands now (though whether she’d have liked the name is another story altogether). A fortnight later –there’s no stopping me now – I venture into blue (Azure Wish: second right in the picture above), which is very appealing, tones perfectly with most of my wardrobe and jewellery, but, oddly, garners almost no compliments at all. On my third visit, pushed for time, I have to pass on the IBX, and go straight for a shellac application. Between the removal of the old and the application of the new I can see that my own nails look to be in excellent condition.

This time round I plan to remove the shellac myself at home, although I postpone the evil moment for as long as possible. Conventional wisdom suggests that an application will last two to three weeks, but my nails grow quickly and after 18 days of Rouge Rite I have to admit defeat, even though I’m daunted and would rather simply let them grow on and turn into talons. I assemble remover fluid, cotton wool and silver foil squares, plus orangesticks and a four-sided buffer (the like of which I’ve never seen before), provided for me by a thoughtful colleague who is a] moved and b] probably exasperated by the drama-out-of-a-crisis I’m creating. And d’you know what? It was really easy (although, to be fair, not as easy or as satisfying as Mihaela made it look).

If you’re restless (guilty as charged), I’d recommend doing one hand at a time, leaving you free to hold a cup of tea, turn the pages of your book or fiddle with your phone while the fingers of the other are wrapped in their little acetone soak for 15 minutes or so. Others with more time or ability to relax (and a certain degree of manual dexterity in the application of the second set of silver foils) are apparently able to do both hands simultaneously.

Once you’ve taken the soak off, and removed any remaining gel with the orange stick and/or the buffer, it’s a simple matter of smoothing, shining and admiring. I’m astonished at how lovely my natural nails are looking. The only time I’ve had gel fingernails previously – some three or four years ago – my own nails were distinctly damaged afterwards: flaky and greying. Today, even before I’ve buffed them, they look fresh and smooth and healthy. The thumbnails are still a little ridged, but I have beautiful half moons (you’d be proud of me, Mum). Over a month after the second treatment, the IBX has clearly protected them perfectly, and I rather like the idea that while I’ve been presenting Oxblood or Rouge Rite to the world, my nailbed has been having its own little private spa treatment…

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