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Are Gel Manicures Safe?

Gel manicures, also known as chip-free manicures, have become a sensation worldwide due to their long-lasting effects. However, their safety has become a debatable topic.
Shalu Bhatti
The process of getting a gel manicure involves exposure to UV rays, acetone, and vigorous scrubbing. These can cause problems such as thinning of nails, infection, and even cancer.
The lines written here give you a clear answer. While many women across the globe have made it a lifetime routine to get their nails manicured frequently, some even changing the shades according to their attire, they have no clue of the severe health risks they are putting themselves through, which may also prove to be fatal in the long run.
The harmful effects of gel nails have been brought into the forefront through various medical experts. In fact, the subject got the maximum exposure when the dangers of the procedure were discussed in an episode of 'The Dr. Oz Show', aired on January 23, 2013.
Various esteemed publishers and newspapers have written elaborate articles, stating facts that highlight how risky it is to make your nails look prim and proper via gel manicures. On the other hand, there are people who vouch for the safety of this procedure.

What Makes Gel Manicures Unsafe?

Dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas was a part of the show along with Dr. Oz. She presented some disturbing facts about the damage done by gel manicures on the nails and the surrounding skin. The show highlighted three main steps in the process that are likely to cause severe harm. These are listed here.

Exposure to UV Rays

As purple as it may feel while being pampered in a nail salon, by placing your hands in the UV lights, it is the most risky phase of the manicure.
Entering your nails in a UV lamp to quicken up the nail-drying process may take a 8 to 10 minutes, which is considered to be very harmful by health experts. The Archives of Dermatology published a study in 2009, which stated that the exposure of UV lights to the nails and hand, for around 10 minutes, is likely to increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Application of Acetone

Although acetone may be efficient enough to remove nail polish, it is very unsafe for your nail bed.
Removing a gel manicure requires the nails to be soaked in acetone for quite some time. Did you know that the chemical not only softens the polish, but also the nails? When the nails are in such a vulnerable state, the next step just acts as a final blow.

Vigorous Scrubbing for Removal

The manicurist uses a metal tool to scrape off the softened nail polish, and certainly the scrubbing bruises the nail bed to a great extent, especially when acetone has already softened it and made it more vulnerable. Dr. Chapas stated in 'The Dr. Oz Show' that according to a study, a single gel manicure removal process thins the nail by almost 50 percent!
Also, the scrubbing and cleaning may cause bruises around the nail bed, putting one under the risk of infections, including the ones caused by the staphylococcus bacteria, which is commonly known as staph infection. Fungal infections may also occur as a result.

Safety Tips

After understanding the potential, perhaps fatal risks of going through the application or removal of gel nails, most of us would probably give up the thought of getting one done again. However, there are certain safety measures and precautions that may be taken in order to minimize the harm. These are:
  • Use anti-UV light manicure gloves to protect the skin during exposure to the UV rays.
  • Visit a nail salon that uses LED lights instead of UV lamps.
  • Apply sunscreen to the hands before beginning the procedure.
  • Use top coat of polish that does not contain chemicals such as toluene, formaldehyde, and DBP (Dibutyl Phthalate).
Is it worth getting a gel manicure knowing the damage it may cause and the irreversible development of cancer? There are evidences against those who vouch for safety of this process, to make it clear that these are not safe. For those who value health more, this option is not worth taking a risk.