Can You Swim With Gel Nails?

by Teresa Newsome

A lot of people turn to gel nails because they're rumored to be indestructible. There are whispers of people who go way longer than the average two to three weeks without a single chip or broken nail. But what about swimmers? Can you swim with gel nails? My first instinct was "heck yes" because, I have experience with the mystical anti-damage, long-lasting powers of gel polish. But then I started doing research and talking to my swim pals, and I came up with a lot of mixed information.

For example, my friend Amy Bush, a swim coach and swim team instructor, said that her gel polish didn't hold up to a couple of hours in the pool, three days per week. Numerous people in random Internet nail care forums that I trolled for hours had the similar experiences.

In an article for Nails Magazine, Doug Schoon, who serves as the scientific adviser for CND, said the polish repels water, which keeps chlorine out, and makes swimming a non-issue. Christine Martitz, writer for Huffington Post, tells of her gels surviving the pool in her article "Nails, Nails, Nails (Gel, Shellac, Silk Wraps)."

So what's the truth? It's probably somewhere in the middle, but here are some things to consider.

1. Chlorine

Chlorine is no joke. It can kill a dye job like nothing, so it makes sense that it would be hard on your nails, too. But will they destroy your gels? According to the website of Nail Tech Karen Brandon, exposure to chlorine can soften and discolor gel nails. One way to help combat that is to apply a topcoat before you go swimming, as an extra line of defense. Brandon also recommends washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you get out of the pool. A topcoat can also help protect your nails from contact with the rough sides of the pool.

OPI Top Coat Nail Polish, $10, Amazon

2. Tanning Lotions

If you're a beach goer, it might not actually be the water, but the tanning lotion or sunscreen you use that causes your nail strife. According to The Beauty Brains, chemicals in sun products, like dibutyl adipate, can react with nail polishes to create a gummy, sticky layer on top. This mostly happens with acrylics and traditional lacquers, and not so much with gels. Still, if even a tiny bit of sunscreen gets under the gel polish, (usually due to poor application or a weak bond) you'll get increased lifting and peeling. Try a spray-on sunscreen or tanning lotion to reduce the amount you get on your nails.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen, $12, Amazon

3. Water, In General

One of the reasons regular nail polish comes off with water exposure is because it isn't always waterproof and doesn't always repel water. That means the natural nail underneath absorbs water and gets kind of bloated. That swelling breaks the bond between the polish and the nail. This doesn't happen the same way with gel polish, which repels water, according to Schoon. The only places where the nail comes in contact with water are the areas between your polish and your cuticles, and the underside of your nails. Since these areas can still absorb water, it could account for lifting and chipping on the edges. Topcoat over these areas can help seal out water.

Aside from protecting your nails and limiting chlorine exposure, there really isn't much else you can do to safeguard your mani. But odds are, if you're just a casual swimmer or vacation beach-goer, your gel mani will stay on with no problems and even last well into your return to regular life.

Images: Pixabay; Giphy (3)