Right now, your nails are stun-ning. They have the perfect shape, the perfect colour, design and are strong AF, but did you know that gel manis use polish that's set with a UV light to achieve the strength, chip-free and long-lasting finish.
You can typically get two weeks of wear out of them, delivering on the eye-pleasing perks, but are gel nails bad for you? Can they ruin your nails in the long run, and is there a connection between gel manicures and certain health issues, including cancer? We are not saying gel manis are off-limits, but there are several ways you can keep them in your routine without harm, here's what you should know...
Gel Manicures May Damage Nails
While they look good on the outside, your natural nails may tell a different story. The most common negative effect of gel manicures is brittleness, peeling, cracking and thinning to the nail plate. The nail plate is what we commonly refer to as the nail. It's made out of keratin and is about a half millimeter thick. Thinner nails are more prone to injuries and abnormalities in the shape.
Another issue to watch out for is irritation in cuticles and the skin surrounding the nail. That can happen from chemicals in the polish that cause a reaction in the skin, possibly affecting the eventual growth of nails as they grow from under your cuticle, so anything that causes irritation or inflammation in this area is sure to have a negative effect.
Do Not—We Repeat, Do Not—Peel Off Your Gel Polish
Gel manis don't last forever, and the number one bad habit with gel manicures is letting them go too long, chip and then picking off the polish, there is probably nothing worse you can do. When you do this, you’re ripping off nail cell layers. This can actually tear the top part of your nail off, leading to your nail plate separating from the bed, even to the point where some technicians have seen multiple patients with no nails! Have them removed by a technician, this is done by soaking your fingertips in acetone.
If you choose to remove your gels at home, patience is key. Use 100 percent real acetone, which you can find at a beauty supply store. Soak a cotton pad in the acetone, place the pad on top of your nail only, wrap it in foil, then wait for up to 15 minutes. If the gel polish is cured appropriately, it should literally float off your nails with an acetone soak. Acetone really dehydrates nails, so nourish your nails and skin with jojoba oil for example when you do this.
Prepare For Potential UV Exposure From Nail Lamps
To harden gel polish your manicurist will have you place your hands under the UV or LED lamp. UV rays are the ones largely responsible for DNA damage that can lead to signs of sun damage (think brown spots, wrinkling and thinning of the skin). While you’re only spending a short amount of time being exposed to UVA light during a gel manicure, this light is more intense than that from the sun, and there has been real concern that this UV exposure could increase the risk for skin cancer on hands and nails.
One review, published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology in 2020, found that there has been no non-melanoma or melanoma skin or nail cancers diagnosed in people younger than 40 years old who regularly get gel manicures; additional data also found that general melanoma rates haven't increased in adults under age 65 either, meaning that even with repeat gel manicures, the risk for skin cancer caused by UV lamps remains relatively small.
Theoretically, repeated UV exposure could still be a risk, so dermatologists recommend covering hands with a broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF at the nail spa. This is a simple way to protect yourself, however it does take approximately 20 minutes before slathering it on to become effective, and can be difficult for a nail technician to work with, plus sunscreen has only been tested against the UV intensity from the sun, so there’s no way of knowing if it’ll work in this instance. So Instead, you could consider wearing YouVeeShield disposable gloves, or Manisafe gloves that help block UV light.
Not letting nails rest, breathe and recuperate in their natural form is simply not good for their long-term health. It's recommended to take a break from a gel manicure for a week or two. We all want to look great, but embrace and nurture your natural beauty at times for the sake of future fabulousness. You should give your nails a thorough scan keeping an eye out for any infection brewing under your nail, and for any dark spots which could be a sign of something more serious. Remember to also rehydrate your nails, petroleum jelly is a great option to replenish your nails and cuticles, minimising brittleness and chipping.
Consider SNS As An Alternative To Gel
SNS is short for ‘Signature Nail Systems’ and is a technique that requires repeated dipping into a powder that hardens on the nail. No LED or UV lamp is needed to set SNS, which is how it gets its connotation of being more healthy and natural for your nails. The colour choices in SNS tend to be less than gel, however, you can always have a regular polish design painted on top of the SNS once finished.
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