Are Gel Manicures Safe Or Should You Avoid Them?

by Jessica Willingham

When I first heard about gel manicures, I was all in. They're shiny, quick to dry, and last two whole weeks. What's not to love? Well, my love affair with gel manicures is, of course, more complicated than I originally thought. Here's what you need to know about them to determine if gel manicures are safe for you.

The largest and most talked about potential risk to your nails is the lightning used to finish a gel manicure. The concern is that the ultraviolet light, UV, used to dry gel nails can cause cancer, similar to the UV lights of tanning beds. While a strong and direct link to the lights and cancer hasn't been made (yet) there was a journal published in 2009 that noted two women, who used UV lights for their manis, were later diagnosed with cancer on the backs of their hands.

In the few studies that have been done, it was found that the amount of UV rays each machine was emitting varied greatly. Similarly, the distribution of the light onto your thumb can be much greater or much less than the light absorbed by your pinkie. Basically, the risk of developing cancer, due to gel manicures is very, very small. But it does exist.

Still, there are other, more certain risks to getting a gel manicure. For one, routine trips to the salon for a gel mani can dehydrate your nails. "The manicure process can lead to dehydration and thinning of the nail plate," says Dr. Adigun, according to Teen Vogue . "I've seen my clients come in with peeling, thin, breaking, discolored nails and even painful nail beds."

According to the Adigun, regular nail treatments, without breaks in between for fresh, nude nails, causes your beds to deteriorate from lack of oxygen. If you never see your nails in the nude, then you can't properly asses their health (or locate infections and possibly tumors). Scary stuff, my friends. The pros suggest going bare at least once every two weeks. Let your nail beds breathe!

If you do decide to go under the lights every now and then, it's important to take off your gel polish the right way. You can take them off at home, or make the trip to the salon, but no matter what, never peel off your gel polish. Peeling the gel is so tempting, but doing so can cause serious damage like flaking and peeling of the nail beds. Whatever you decide, know that acetone can dry your nail beds so be sure to slather on the moisture post-mani with lotion or oils.

Whether you decide a bulletproof manicure is worth the occasional exposure to UV lights, or you decide to swear off them completely. it's always important to consider your nail health and be vigilant of negative changes in your nails appearance. As always, your health is the most important thing!

Image: Getty