Gel Nail Polish: Are They Safe?


Image result for nail paintMany women must have sung Hallelujah (I included) after they discovered gel nail polish. A polish that will look glossy and shiny and not chip for more than 3 weeks, is it not God sent. If you are one hands on lady who cooks, cleans and does a lot of other house work, we know how lucky we could be if our polish last  a good three days without chipping, even after getting cloves for the kitchen, bathroom and anywhere else you may have to use them.

I have questioned though, are the gel no chip manicures here to save us or destroy us? Surely they are better that acrylic nails which often damages nails. Application of the polish involves use of UV light to dry the gel on our nails. Dr Chris Adigun, from New York University School of Medicine, said the UV lamps damage the skin cells in much the same way as sunbeds.

‘Women who frequently get gel manicures should consider their skin cancer risk,’ he said. While specialists argue that the UV light used is too little to cause any harm, overuse of it increases the risk.

Removal of the polish involves soaking in acetone. This causes dryness and makes your nails brittle. Make sure your manicurist is doing it right. They should wrap the nail in acetone soaked foil not dipping the whole nail into the acetone. While gel polish has been marketed as the most convenient way to give a glossy, chip-free nails look, their long use maybe harmful. A preventive measure is to slather some sunscreen on the hands before the manicure.

So do we stay away from the procedure completely? It is advisable to use the treatment only for special occasions but not every three weeks when the nail grows.

I quote Dr. Susan Taylor on her research on the polish. Make informed choices.

Dr. Susan Taylor

(Dermatologist, Clinical Researcher, and Expert on Treating Skin of Color)

  1. Some of the gel nail polishes contain a chemical called methyl acrylate which can cause an allergic skin reaction, called contact dermatitis. Wherever the chemical comes into contact with the skin, a rash may develop. Because we inadvertently touch our eyes throughout the day, the rash can also involve our eyelids. The rash from methyl acrylate is usually red, itchy, bumpy and uncomfortable. It may last a week or two. Removing the polish and treating the skin with a cortisone cream will clear the rash.
  2. The chemical, butylated hydroxyanisol (BHA), which is considered a cancer-causing agent, is found in some gel nail polishes. Although we do not know exactly how much exposure you would need for cancer to develop, it’s important to be aware of this connection. Not all polishes contain this chemical, so check the ingredient list.
  3. Gel nail polish is set or cured with ultraviolet light. Think of the light as baking the polish into the nails. The problem is that ultraviolet light is essentially sunlight and sunlight causes skin cancer. If you are exposed to ultraviolet light for four to eight minutes every two weeks when you have a gel manicure, that can add up to significant exposure. To avoid potential skin cancers on your fingers or hands, I suggest that you apply an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen to directly your hands and fingers after you wash your hands midway through the manicure. Then wear tightly woven cotton gloves with the tips of the fingers cut off. Another alternative is to find a manicurist that uses LED (light emitting diode) light to set the gel polish. We don’t think that this type of light will cause skin cancer.
  4. To remove gel polish, your nails are soaked in or wrapped in acetone. Acetone is a very drying chemical and will cause your nail to become brittle and peel after repeated use. Massaging a moisturizer into you nails several times each day will help to combat the dryness.
  5. As with acrylic nails, the surface of your nail is usually abraded or roughed with an emery board, before gel polish is applied. This will weaken your nail and lead to breakage and the possibility of infection.


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