Expert Tips for a Safer Gel Manicure

Expert Tips for a Safer Gel Manicure featured image
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The advantages of gel manicure are major. Extra long-lasting (they can last two weeks or more) and chip-resistant nail polish is just not possible with your standard manicure. But are the pros of a gel manicure worth it or could they actually be harmful in the long run? A new study from New York University School of Medicine recently examined the nail weakness, brittleness and thinning that results from gel manicures.

“In general, any manicure left in place for an extended period of time is not a good idea because you are not seeing what is going on underneath the nail polish,” says Dr. Chris Adigun, assistant professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine. “As is the case with most things, moderation is the key when it comes to gel manicures,” she said. “If you get them regularly, you need to be aware of the possible consequences and see a board-certified dermatologist if a persistent nail problem develops.”

Nail brittleness associated with gel manicures could be caused by either chemicals in the gel polish or by the acetone soaks needed to remove the polish (since it’s drying to the nails and irritates the surrounding skin), according to the study’s authors. While they are not sure which to attribute, they also point out that the UV light used to harden and seal the gel polish is a risk factor for skin cancer and causes photo damage which can affect the fingers’ skin. 

Don’t worry, if you get an occasional gel manicure here and there, you don’t have much to worry about. However, if you are regularly getting gel manicures, follow these tips to ensure your safety: 

  • Pay attention to your nails and allow them to regrow and repair. Consider getting gel manicures only occasionally to decrease the risk of problems.
  • When getting gel manicures, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen on your hands to minimize damage caused by exposure to UV light during the curing process.
  • Tell the manicurist not to push or manipulate the cuticle because that will increase the risk of inflammation and infection and also dry out the nail.
  • Use traditional nail polish instead of gel nail polish if you have recurring nail problems, or if you have an allergy to acetone, which is used to remove gel manicures.
  • Rehydrate your nails several times a day with a moisturizing product, such as petroleum jelly, to combat brittleness, thinning and chipping.
  • When removing gel nail polish, do not chip it with other nails or tools.
  • Soak only the nails, not the whole hand or fingers, in acetone while nail polish is being removed. This will help prevent skin irritation. If you get gel manicures frequently, consider buying finger wraps that expose only the nails and protect surrounding skin.
  • If you notice any unusual changes to the nails, see a board-certified dermatologist.

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