Does Sunscreen Ruin Gel Manicures? What To Know Before Your Next Vacation


Did you know, that in some cases, certain types of sunscreen have been known to ruin manicures? Apparently, there are certain emulsifiers in sunscreen that have a bad reaction to some of the chemicals in nail polish. What about super-strength gel manicures, though? Does sunscreen ruin gel manicures?

Sunscreen doesn't seem to have the same effect on gel manicures as it does on regular manicures (as well as acrylic nails) — which is lucky, because dermatologists actually recommend wearing sunscreen when you go to get a gel nail manicure. It may sound strange, but most gel manicures use UV lamps to cure the polish — and, as we know, prolonged exposure to UV light can increase your risk for skin cancer. A few minutes here and there may seem like a trifling amount, but several manis a year can add up over time.

UV lamps aside, sunscreen doesn't affect gel nail polish the same way it affects regular nail polish — after all, their chemical makeups are very, very different. According to The Toast, your standard polish's main ingredient is nitrocellulose ("a mixture of an indigestible plant fiber and the stuff that makes nitroglycerin or TNT explode"), while gel polish's main player is a "liquid form of a plastic called methacrylate."

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The UV curing process sets off a chemical reaction within the polish, that basically causes the methacrylate to harden into plastic — which explains why your gel manicure is as solid as a turtle shell. It's pretty fascinating, right?

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So, thanks to science, your newly gelled nails should be safe from sunscreen.

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The long-lasting, ultra-convenient gel manis have long been the patron saint of beach vacations — so thank goodness you don't have to worry about your SPF raining on your parade!