The Cost Of Looking Cute: Is Gel Polish Healthy For Your Nails?

July 31, 2012  |  

The first time I got a manicure, somewhere back in high school; every girl was getting acrylic tips. Then we moved on to gel tips and most recently gel polish. Now since I have naturally strong and long nails I never really indulged in the nail tips…but this gel polish trend, yes ma’am. As someone who does their hair often and uses their hands a lot, no matter the brand of nail polish (I’m an OPI girl, btw) my nail polish always chipped off within 3 days. And I absolutely abhor sitting still for longer than 5 minutes and then not being able to use my hands for an hour. The promises of gel polish lasting for upwards of 2+ weeks and drying in 5 minutes seemed like the ultimate answer to my need for having polished nails and working with my hands. So I jumped on the gel polish train.

The first time I got gel polish, I realized that the process is a lot like the gel tip process and I had always stayed away from that because tips weigh down and weaken your nail bed. For gel polish, they add a coat of shellac, which is baked under a UV light, and then the paint, which is again backed under the UV light. 2-3 weeks later you’re back at the nail salon to remove the gel polish and possibly reapply. In order to remove gel polish you have to soak your nails in acetone for 10+ minutes and then you’re back at it all over again. It’s a relatively simple and quick process. But that simple and quick process can do some damage to the nails.

Baking under UV lights is like exposing yourself to direct sunlight, which causes skin cancer. According to Dr. Susan Taylor at HuffPo: “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.” You can counter that by adding sunscreen after the nail salon has you wash your hands. If you’re brazen and super health focused, you can also wear gloves with the fingertips cut off. Alternatively, LED light is much safer option for any of the gel processes.

Now the acetone soak to remove the gel polish was the most harrowing for me. Acetone dries out your hands and can cause your nails to peel. I like my real nails and would like to keep it that way. Making your nails brittle by soaking them in acetone can make them more susceptible to breaking. To offset this, take Vitamin E and moisturize your hands regularly.

Do you have to stay away from gel polish if you want healthy nails? Not entirely, but don’t be so eager to get them done on the regular. Your nails need time to breath, so try to extend the time period between gel polish application. Applying light colors will also help extend the length of wear. Just remember that every trend isn’t best for you. Do your research and weigh how much the health risks mean to you.

Jouelzy offers tutorials on all aspects of Black hair care via her YouTube channel, focusing on women with tight budgets. You can also find her daily hair tips and inspirations on Facebook.

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