Acetone Is an Acid
Part of what makes gel manicures problematic is the highly abrasive removal process. In order to dissolve the gel polish, nails have to be soaked in acetone, either in a bowl or with tinfoil nail caps wrapped around acetone-saturated cotton balls. This is not good for your nails. In fact, a recent study showed that the removal of gel polish—including the scraping off of the polish from your fingernail—thinned nails by as much as 50%! Gel manicures might seem to strengthen your nails, but it’s an illusion. Your nails are getting thinner with every sweep of gel polish.
Dermatologists also warn against gel manicures because they increase your risk of infection, even a fungal infection! Bacteria can creep through cuts and scrapes in the nail and can cause a staph infection.
If you are a gel manicure addict, it might be wise to invest in a machine called Steam Off, which is a lot less drying than saturating your nails with acetone. Here’s how it works: you stick you fingertips in the enclosed chamber, and then the machine spritzes a warm acetone solution over your nails. It takes about 10 minutes per hand for the gel polish to begin dissolving, but the time is worth saving your nails. You will still need to gently scrape off the polish with an orange stick. Gently being the key word!
UV Lamps Are UV Lamps
Meaning…that machine you stick your hand in to quick dry your gel nail polish is actually a UV lamp that emits ultraviolet rays. And UV rays can cause skin cancer. Now, according to the Professional Beauty Association Nail Manufacturers Council on Safety:
“Gel nail products, their application with the use of UV lights, and removal are safe when used as directed…the amount of UV exposure is equivalent to very minimal sun exposure. These small lamps, which are used every two to three weeks and take 15 seconds to 2 minutes to cure per coat, are nothing like tanning beds.”
Still, 2 minutes per hand per coat can add up to 8 minutes of ultraviolet exposure real quick. So, if you’re going to get gel manicures, take the following precautions:
1. Go to a salon that uses LED lamps instead of UV lamps. LED lamps work faster and are more efficient so you are exposed to less UV radiation.
2. Put on sunscreen of at least SPF 30 right before your manicure.
3. Wear anti-UV gloves. They protect everything but your fingertips so you don’t have to worry about wrinkles and sun spots. You can get them at beauty stores or online for about $10.
If you’re scared off of gel manicures then don’t despair. You can enhance your chances of going chip-free for longer by applying a top coat to your manicures every day. Just use a top coat polish that is free of the following nasty chemicals: