Gel manicures look fantastic, are extremely durable, and dry faster than other manicure types. For the fashion-conscious in search of a premium quality mani, gel polish seems like the obvious best choice, and in many ways it is, but, as with any other beauty product or cosmetic treatment, one should be aware of the risks involved. Before you spring for that gel manicure, you should familiarize yourself with the process and take precautions to ensure a healthy, safe, comfortable, and worthwhile experience.
Essential to the application of gel polish is drying via ultraviolet light. It’s unavoidable; without direct UV light, the gel will not properly set. While the drying process typically takes no longer than 130 seconds, this is still enough time for your skin to incur some damage, with the lamps used by manicurists producing four times as much ultraviolet radiation as sunlight. Thankfully, there are ways around this potential health hazard.
If you’re trying to avoid UV damage to your skin, you can take the same approach as when you go to the beach: sunscreen. Before going in for your gel manicure, apply sunscreen to your hands. Look for anything with an SPF of at least 30, and make sure your manicure appointment is within your sunscreen’s window of effectiveness. If for some reason you don’t want to use sunscreen — maybe you just don’t like that oily feeling on your hands — try gloves without fingertips! Tipless gloves are available in a variety of styles and sizes, and can also easily be fashioned from normal gloves with a few snips. However, if you are particularly sensitive to UV light, or if your sensitivity has been increased by an antibiotic regimen, you may want to avoid gel polish.
Gel polish may be as eye-catching as it is durable, but don’t assume they’re great for your nails. Dermatologists recommend leaving gel polish on nails for no longer than three weeks. Longer than that, and the gel will begin to separate from the nail bed, creating a damp and dark environment perfect for bacterial growth, eventually leading to weakened, brittle nails. While three weeks is considered low-risk, consider removing your gel polish even sooner, perhaps at the two-week mark, to ensure the least nail damage possible.
When the time comes to remove your gel polish, don’t do it yourself. Proper gel removal is an involved procedure and quite time consuming. This can’t be stressed enough: leave this job to a professional manicurist, ideally the same one who performed your gel mani in the first place. Rushed, ill-prepared, or otherwise amateurish removal of gel polish will result in damaged nails.
You’re already going in for a professional gel manicure, so why settle for a lesser polish? Not every gel polish is created equal, and it’s important to know which one is being used on your nails and to opt for the best product possible. Cheaper gel polishes may have a more appealing price tag, but remember: your body is worth more than a few dollars saved.
Despite the wealth of available scientific knowledge regarding nail health, nail polish — and cosmetic products in general — are not tightly regulated. Some gel polishes contain harmful ingredients, used either to cut costs or to produce a striking end result at the expense of the wearer’s health. Cheaper gel polishes will more readily dry out nail beds, leaving them easily cracked and chipped. Request a health conscious gel polish at your salon, like Healthy Gelstar from SNS, which includes calcium and vitamin E to nourish nail beds. Always make sure the gel polish used is genuine; in a market rife with sophisticated counterfeit products, it’s easier than you think to fall for fake cosmetics.
Let Your Nails Breathe
Even with the best available gel polish, the most meticulous application process, the best anti-UV preparations, and a professional polish removal, jumping right back into a new gel manicure won’t do any favors for your nails. No matter what, gel polish smothers and suffocates your nails, but the extent of that sacrifice can be controlled with moderation.
Give your nails a break. After gel removal, take a week or two for your nails to breathe. Back-to-back gel manicures will dehydrate your nail beds and embrittle your nails quickly, so it’s important to allow time for them to recover. Acetone, like rubbing alcohol, is extremely drying, so all acetone-based procedures, such as gel polish removal, should be followed up with the application of rehydrating cuticle oil. Ask your manicurist if they can provide an assessment of your nail health, and, if necessary, offer any advice on treatment. Finally, if you know your nails are already prone to weakness and brittleness, try to avoid gel manicures altogether.