The Atlantic

What Fresh Gel Is This?

The chemistry of gel manicures, chrome nails, and other nail-art trends
Source: Elena Grama / Shutterstock / The Atlantic

As I type these words, my nails are 10 small silver mirrors, reflecting the overhead fluorescent lights as I move my fingers across my keyboard. I learned about these so-called chrome nails from The Atlantic’s fashionable deputy web editor Swati Sharma, and shortly thereafter, she and I went and got manicures so I could see the process in action. The mirror effect was created with a special powder that a nail technician, as they’re referred to in the industry, rubbed onto a layer of polish with a tiny sponge. It was mesmerizing, and a little mystifying. How did the glitter powder transform into a solid, shiny surface?

We have the to thank, at least partially, for the surge in popularity of nail art, says Beth Livesay, the executive editor of magazine. When celebrities started treating their nails as canvases for miniature art, the trend caught on with the public, too. But lately,, , and .

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