Are Gel Manicures Ruining Your Nails? Here Are Facts You Need to Know

Gel manicures have become incredibly popular, being the top choice in numerous salons. From glittery nail art to classic French manicures, your nails can certainly make a statement. Plus, gels can last up to four weeks and provide a nice, glossy finish without peeling or chipping. But could gel manicures be ruining your natural nails? Here's everything you should know.

What is a gel manicure?

Gel manicures are a type of manicure that uses a gel-based polish and usually requires an LED or UV nail lamp to secure the polish. Gel polish is much more durable than regular polish. While a gel manicure appears similar to a traditional manicure, the added benefits include extended longevity, enhanced shine, and a sturdier feel to your nails. Moreover, the beauty of gel manicures lies in their inclusivity — anyone can enjoy them, regardless of whether their nails are short or long.

Is gel manicure safe?

After your nails get a coat of gel paint, they are put in a UV (ultraviolet) or LED (light emitting diode) nail lamp to set. These nail lamps usually emit UV radiation. The difference between the two is that an LED nail lamp emits a more focused, more concentrated wavelength and an average cure time of around 60 seconds. A UV nail lamp emits a broader spectrum of wavelengths and usually takes longer to cure gel, with an average cure time of two minutes.

A common concern with gel polish is exposure to UV rays. However, the risk of premature aging or skin cancer is low due to the short exposure time. A 2020 review stated that UV gel manicures usually pose little to no cancer risk in young adults. Despite this, current research is still very limited, and there is no harm in taking safety precautions.

Side effects of gel manicure on nail health

According to a survey of 2,118 people who used gel manicures, some people experienced swelling, itchiness, and burning during the application process. However, nail damage is more likely to occur during the removal process. The study found that 3 in 4 people experienced side effects after removing their gel. Some side effects included weakened nails, cracking, splitting, and changes to the nail plate.

Gels also contain several chemicals, such as acrylates and methacrylates, which pose a risk of allergic reactions like contact dermatitis.

How long can you wear gel manicured nails?

Gel nails usually last about four weeks. While you can safely have gel manicures every few weeks, dermatologists often recommend keeping your nails bare for at least 1 to 2 weeks in between manicures. This will help strengthen, repair, and rehydrate the nails.

How to remove gel manicures safely

Your best option for safely removing gel manicures is to visit a nail salon and have it professionally removed. A nail technician will use acetone to remove gel manicures. They will use a coarse nail file first to remove the shiny top layer. Then, they'll place cotton balls soaked with acetone on every nail and wrap them with aluminum foil to let the acetone soak in. After about 15–20 minutes, the gel polish should come right off. They'll then use a nail buffer and gently smooth out the nail surface, finishing off with cuticle oil because acetone can be very drying for your nail plates.

A professional may utilize an electric drill to remove gel manicures, as an electric nail file can expedite the process. However, it's crucial to exercise caution when using an electric drill, as improper handling may cause damage. Improper use can harm your nail plate and increase sensitivity in your nail bed.

Safety tips for your next manicure

Here are a few things you can do before your gel manicure to make it as safe as possible.

  • Apply sunscreen. Most salons don't provide sunscreen as part of their gel services, so you have to bring your own and apply it before the nail-painting process starts.
  • Leave your cuticles alone. Your cuticles are your body's natural barrier to protect the nail from infection, so don't remove them.
  • Clean your nails regularly. Also, try keeping your nails short to reduce the accumulation of bacteria and dirt.
  • Use a nail and cuticle moisturizer such as petroleum jelly to keep your hands moisturized.

Tips for doing gel manicures at home

Doing gel nails at home is not so different from the nail salons. As long as you have the right equipment and the patience to learn, you can do it. Here are tips and tricks for the perfect at-home gel manicure.

  1. Invest in the right tools. What you need for a seamless polish is a home gel manicure kit. The kit contains all the necessary tools for a gel manicure, including an LED or UV nail lamp, nail buffer, cuticle oil, rubbing alcohol, base coat, top coat, gel polish colors, and gel remover.
  2. Choose gel polishes with gentler ingredients. Always look for polishes that are '3-free' or '7-free.' This means they are free of formaldehyde, toluene, and other potentially harmful chemicals.
  3. Nail prep properly. Prepping your nails is very important. That means washing your hands, cleaning up your cuticles, as well as filing and shaping your nails.
  4. Always apply thin coats. If you start with too much gel, you will experience flooding. Using thin coats of the gel will allow you to control the placement of the gel.
  5. Don't skip both the base and top coat. The base coat usually holds your design, and the top coat seals it nicely to protect your gel from fading.
  6. Gel aftercare is important. As gel polish application usually requires acetone, which can dry out your nails, it's important to add a bit of moisture back into your nails.

Gel manicure alternatives

If you're ready to take a break from curing UV nail lamps, there's good news. There are plenty of different alternatives out there.

  • Powder dip nails. A dip powder manicure involves using powder rather than polish. The powder is usually sealed by layers of adhesive, and there is no dry time or UV/LED nail lamps required. Powder dip nails can last three to four weeks.
  • BIAB nails. Also known as a builder in a bottle, these are soak-off gel builders, which are great for creating strong overlays and as a strengthening barrier for your natural nails. BIAB nails can last up to four weeks.
  • Regular nail polish. These are typically acetone-based solutions that dry when exposed to air. Regular polish is much easier to chip and will only last a week or two.
  • Polygel nails. Polygel is a new form of gel nails, a combination of gel and acrylic. You will still need to use a UV nail lamp to cure them, and they will last two to three weeks.
  • Press-on nails. These are fake nails that are made of plastic and can be glued directly to your natural nails. All you'll need is the press-on nails and nail glue. They can last up to two weeks.

Overall, gel manicures are a durable and long-lasting option. However, the chemicals in the gel and removal process may be nail-damaging for some people. There are other gel alternatives you can try that do not use UV light, such as regular nail polish or press-on nails, among others. But if you really love gel manicures, always ensure you apply sunscreen to your hands before you go under the lamp and moisturize well afterward. And when it is time to remove your gel, see a professional to remove them safely.


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prefix 22 days ago
The cuticles are dead actually, what you have to be really careful about is the proximal nail fold.