You might think tanning with UV gel nails would, if anything, make them stronger, considering a tanning bed seems like it's one big, whole-body-sized UV gel lamp (It's probably not). You would be wrong. I know, I was surprised, too! But, it turns out, tanning can totally mess up your gel manicure, according to Nails Magazine. And in more ways than one. From sleuthing around nail care forums and chatting up my friends who tan (I, myself, don't tan in tanning beds. Final Destination, anyone?), I found out that tanning can cause your gel manicure to turn yellow, dry out, or lift. Plus, some tanning lotions cause yellowing and lifting, too. And it's not just gel nails. Acrylic nails can suffer the same fate.
One solution is to avoid tanning altogether. This is the solution that would make The American Cancer Society happy, considering tanning significantly increases your skin cancer risk. But if you're about that tanning life, and versed on the risks, you're probably more likely to skip your gels than skip your rays. But wait: You don't have to pick, because many brave nail and tanning lovers have gone before you and figured this whole mess out with science and good-old-fashioned ingenuity. Phew, right? Here's a breakdown of how to tan with gel nails without throwing your mani money in the toilet. Because, hello, nails aren't cheap and you don't drag your fabulously tanned and manicured self to work every single day for nothing. Anyway, here's what to do.
1. Get Fancy
Gel makers are getting hip to the fact that some types yellow under certain circumstances, so they've been on the ball making gels that don't yellow. They're on the pricier side, but they're becoming the standard at higher-end salons. If you're not already using these types of gels, as your tech to get them in. You'll probably have to pay more, but that's still cheaper than having to replace or repair a fried mani.
CND Brisa Gloss Gel Top Coat, $20, Bodywork Mall
2. Use A UV Topcoat
UV topcoats are like sunscreen for your mani. Actually, they are sunscreen for your mani. If you already have gel nails, and you're not sure if they are a brand that resist yellowing, a UV topcoat is like an insurance policy. You don't have to go back to the salon, because they go on like regular nail polish, and they're pretty cheap.
Sally Hansen Ultimate Shield - Fortifying Base & Top Coat, $5, Target
Nars Top Coat, $20, Sephora
3. Paint Your Nails
A lot of people in the nail care forums said painting their nails before tanning was enough to protect them from damage. I can see how this might work, but I can see how it might also cause problems. For example, as a person who wears a gel overlay, and paints my nails on top of the gel regularly, I can say that the majority of my polishes stain my gel. If you need a quick solution that uses things you already have at home, I can see this as an option, but just know that if you plan on taking the polish off and going back to your gel mani, you might be destined for heartbreak. But you could always just keep painting them until it's time for new gels. Pros and cons, so...
4. Get Nail Savers
Nail savers are like these magical little mittens for your mani. Mani mittens! That's what they should be called. They're just little vinyl pockets that you slip over your nails to keep them safe from UV rays. You can reuse them forever, and they're inexpensive, so they might be the best solution. Plus you don't have to change anything about your nail care routine. Your tanning salon probably sells them, but if not, you can get some here:
Nail Savers Protective Nail Covers, $11, Tan For Less
5. Use DHA-Free Tanning Lotion
Some of the emulsifiers and other chemicals in tanning lotions, like dibutyl adipate and dihydroxyacetone, are also used in nail polish removers! That's why you might find that your nails are sticky or tacky after you use them. This typically isn't the case for gels, since they're pretty removal-resistant, unless you soak them for ages in acetone, but you might still find you have problems. They may even cause some lifting. It's hard to tell if a lotion will be hard on your nails without some testing, but DHA-free ones are a good place to start.
This should be all you need to know to keep your nail game strong while you work on your tanning game.