Be wary of UV light
The application of gel is not totally different from the application of a traditional polish, with the exception of the curing process under the UV-emitting lamps, according to Chris G. Adigun, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist and Nail Specialist at the Dermatology & Laser Center of Chapel Hill. And therein lies the potential problem. “These lamps are not to be underestimated, even though the exposure times are brief,” Dr. Adigun says. “They are very powerful and are emitting UVA rays far more powerful than those emitted by the sun.” She recommends purchasing a UVA-blocking sleeve, such as the YouVeeShield, and bringing it to the nail salon to wear while your gel polish is curing. LED lights are actually no safer than traditional fluorescent UV lamps. In fact, according to Dr. Adigun, they emit exponentially more powerful UVA rays, which is why the curing times are shorter. Forgetting your hands is one of the sunscreen mistakes we all make.
Know how nails get damaged
It’s not just the UV light that’s potentially damaging. While an experienced nail tech will always make sure the correct lamp is used with the proprietary gel polish for the recommended amount of time, it’s easy to mess up the steps. “Any alteration in these variables can lead to polish that is over-cured to the nail plate that becomes very difficult to remove,” explains Dr. Adigun. “A properly applied gel should literally ‘float’ off the nail with the acetone soak. However, when a gel is not properly cured, it will not come off, and needs to be manually chipped off, which is very traumatizing to the nail plate.” Find out the 16 things your manicurist is secretly thinking about you.
Gel manis can weaken your nails…but it’s mostly due to the removal process
There is evidence to suggest that the gel manicure process can lead to dehydration and thinning of the nail plate. “In one study, nail plate thickness was measured both before and after a gel manicure, and thinning of the nail was observed,” notes Dr. Adigun. The most important thing to keep in mind when getting a gel manicure is that the removal process is one of, if not the most damaging part of the entire experience, according to Ruth Kallens, founder and partner of Van Court in NYC. (Here’s how to do everyday things and not ruin your nails.)