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Are gel manicures bad for you?

Are gel manicures bad for you?

So you like indulging in some serious nail beauty. Who can blame you? We use and look at our hands a lot, and while plenty of ladies are still self manicuring at home on Friday nights in front of Scandal, plenty more love a twice monthly or monthly visit to their favorite local salon for some heavy duty gel mani action. It’s a relatively low price to pay for a beauty treatment (especially when you compare it to haircuts or spa dates) and it can radically transform the way you feel about your overall look. With nail art on the rise, the ever-strong gel polish has become the go-to to keep your fancy-as-ever nails safe from all the typing, cleaning and general wear and tear your nails go through in your busy day-to-day life.

So here comes the big question – is it safe? A couple of years back, research came out suggesting that these long-lasting manis could be somewhat unsafe, considering the process includes UV lighting, which has been associated with skin cancer. Yikes! Fear not though, young nail lover, according to VOX, the FDA regulated UV nail lamps (as it does with other UV lamps like for tanning) and there have been no official warnings released about nail lamps and their dangers. Since the initial internet backlash, dermatologists and manicure specialists have stepped forward to insist that gel manis are safe, and actually have a few added benefits. In fact, many salons use LED lamps, which emit low levels of UV rays and work primarily to help with fast curing (read: exposure is minimal).

To help ease your worried mind, here are three important facts about gel manicures and ways to ensure you’re making the smartest choices for your digits.

Gel manis can actually add strength and support.

Gel manis can actually add strength and support. There’s no way around it, getting your nails done constantly without breaks can weaken your nail beds. All that action has got to take a toll, including dehydration and thinning of the nail palate. Be cognizant of your nails between treatments, and check for peeling, thin and breaking nails, and discoloration and/or painful nail beds. It’s important to be vigilant in the fight against infections, which is impossible if you’re never paying attention to what it looks like between fresh coats of paint. The good news is that gel manis add a protective coating that can provide strength and – as long as you don’t rip it off – gel polish isn’t any more damaging than regular polish.

The exposure to light is brief. UV only really begins to be an issue if you’re doing it too often or for too long. As long as you’re getting gel manicures as infrequently as every few weeks and your manicurist is only having you hold your hands under the light for 30 seconds or so at a time, you’re in the clear. Still, LED lamps are your best bet, and are something to consider looking for when picking a salon. The main difference is efficiency – LED lights are just more efficient, just like the light bulbs you buy for your home. They last a long time and give adequate amounts of light allowing for a quicker and safer curing of gel polish.

Know your gel 101. Never pick your polish off, as it’s the major no-no of gel manicures and one of the worst things you can do to your poor nail beds. You may be tempted to take the whole thing off if it starts to peel between appointments, but when you pick it off, you’re likely taking layers of your nail off with it. This damage can take months to repair. You’ll also want to check the brands of gel polish your salon is working with and avoid using anything that contains the “toxic trio” (formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate). There are plenty that don’t have them and believe us, you don’t want to put your nails anywhere near those bad boys. You can also look for salons that skip the soak off process, which involves acetone. Plenty of salons have come up with less harmful ways to remove gel, but if you must go the soak method, be sure to bathe those fingers in Aquaphor afterward to rehydrate!

And there you have it! The skinny on how to get your nail fix with ease of mind. Be sure to consistently check in on the health of your nails between manicures, even if it means just sneaking a thorough glance between removal and reapplication at appointments, and work with nail techs who know their stuff and care about the health of your nails. Always make sure your hands are well moisturized and use sunscreen if you’re exposed to the sun – and that includes on your hands! And enjoy those sparkly beauties. You deserve it!