Gel manicures are one of those inventions that make beauty easy. Your nail technician simply paints your nails in the color of your choice, "cures" or seals them with a UV lamp and in minutes you have a fabulous, long-lasting manicure for at least 2 weeks. So, what's the problem?
First, gel nail polish can be difficult to remove because nails must be soaked in acetone for at least 10-15 minutes to rid the nail of the polish. Also, dermatologists are concerned that gel causes nail problems — such as nail thinning associated with brittleness, peeling, and cracking — with frequent use and can camouflage nail disease if done repeatedly. There are also concerns curing the gel nail polish with UV lamps could cause skin cancer. In addition, photo damage from UV lamps may result in cosmetic changes to the exposed surrounding skin.
Doctors are unclear whether the issues with brittleness and thinning are from the chemicals in the gel nail polish, or from the acetone soaks required to remove the gel polish.
Acetone, which is needed to break down the chemical bonds of gel polish, is very drying to the nails and irritating to the skin surrounding the nail.
If gel nails are thought to be a problem, there are solutions says DC nail professional Indigo Makong, owner of Indigo Nail Stylist on Capitol Hill.
"A big part of potential issues with your gel manicures depends on your nail care professional," says Makong."You can be proactive with your manicurist and ask them not to manipulate the cuticle because that increases the risk of inflammation, infection, and also dries out the nail. Also, request that they do not chip the nail polish or scrape your nail with tools to remove the polish."
She also suggests rehydrating nails several times a day with a moisturizing product, such as Ikole Beauty cuticle oil or petroleum jelly, to reverse any signs of brittleness, thinning, or chipping.
To decrease irritation to the skin and nails, your nail professional should only soak nails, not your hands or even the tips of your fingers in acetone to remove the gel polish. They should use wraps or foil soaked cotton balls specifically for this purpose.
Finally, doctors have determined that the amount of exposure to UV light is not enough to cause skin cancer. However, wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen on your hands to minimize photodamage as a result of the UV exposure during the curing process may be a good idea.