Are you considering bulletproofing your nails with a gel manicure? They're a great option for those hard on their nails (#same), but there are some truths you should know before getting a gel manicure, because although gel manicures may be strong enough to stop a speeding bullet, polish this powerful comes with great responsibility.
Gel nails, as manicure addicts know, are pretty much the greatest invention for nails since, well, nail polish. Touted for their longevity (seriously, you've gotta be a welder to chip these suckers), the secret of gel nails' longevity lies in how they're cured. As manicurist Miss Pop told Seventeen, gel nails differ from acrylics because they come in polish shades and are hardened by curing under a UV or LED lamp. The result? This manicure will last you 2-3 weeks, which is about fifty times longer than this murderer of manicures has ever been able to keep polish on her natural nails. Sure, acrylics will also last that long, but they don't have the signature glossy finish that makes gel nails so covetable.
If you're thinking a gel manicure is in your immediate future (because why not?), keep in mind that they've come under scrutiny for potentially causing, well, cancer (oh, that's why). JAMA Dermatology recently published findings that linked prolonged exposure to UV lamps — as in 8-14 visits over 24-42 months — is enough to put you at heightened risk for skin cancer. Eek. That being said, the occasional gel manicure is safe so long as you're not waltzing into the tanning bed directly afterward.
Here are more things to consider before you plunk down your hard-earned cash for a set of sun-cured magic nails.
1. They're A Pain To Remove
What makes gel nails so great also makes them a royal headache when you're ready to remove them. Although it's recommended that you return to the salon to avoid doing damage to your nail plate, removal can be done at home — just be careful, gentle, and above all, patient.
2. They Can Do Major Damage
The first commandment of gel nails is this: thou shalt not peel. Why? I'll let New York dermatologist Dana Stern do the talking. "Nails are composed of cells called keratinocytes that look like tiles on a roof if you examine them under a microscope," she told Allure. "By peeling off a gel manicure, you are not only removing the gel, but also the top layers of these delicate cells. This can result in white patches and textural irregularities throughout the nails." So resist the urge to peel, and seek out some acetone instead.
3. Prepare For Death Valley Dryness
Although acetone is the salon-approved method to remove your tips, it's kind of super drying. Hearty doses of vitamin E oil and intense moisturizing salve will help get your nails back on track, but the best solution for healthy nails is to take a break between manicures.
4. Ask For LED Instead of UV
According to the folks over at Teen Vogue, many salons have introduced LED cured polish as a safer alternative to traditional UV products. LED cured manicures don't last quite as long, but they pose no risk of inducing cancer. I don't know about you, but that's a sacrifice I'd be willing to make.
5. It Doesn't Hurt To Apply Sunscreen
If LED is not an option at your favorite salon, you can minimize the damage a UV lamp does on your digits by asking the manicurist to use sunscreen rather than lotion. Sure, they'll give you a weird look, but who's gonna be laughing when you have healthy hands in 40 years, hmm?
6. You Can Do It At Home
Miracle Gel in Scarlet, $10, Sally Hansen
As Pinterest can attest, there's a DIY option for everything, and gel nails aren't late to the party. Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel system consists of two steps and promises 14 days of wear. Eh, it's not as long as the in-salon option, but I'll take it.
7. Avoid The Toxic Trio
Unfortunately many nail polishes contain the toxic trio, known carcinogens that the OSHA recommends limiting your exposure to. On the bright side, there are products on the market formulated without the toxic trio. Ask your manicurist to use Jemma Hipp, Jin Soon, RGB, Zoya, or Sally Hansen.
Images: Kseniya Ovchinnikova/Moment/Getty Images, Giphy (6), Courtesy Brands