There’s been a lot of negative press lately on gel manicures (let's face it, people need to sell magazines), but truth is they haven’t been around long enough to really know what could happen. Since I’m a fan, I wanted to present the facts, so I chatted with Celebrity Manicurist, Deborah Lippmann and Dr. Marina Peredo to get the scoop. When really dissected they’re not that bad for you the benefits outway the negatives (two weeks of chip-free polish?). Decide for yourself. UV Lamps
Yes, it’s true the UV lamps used to harden the gels during gel manicures are like mini tanning beds, which everyone should avoid at all costs. However, they only produce about 60 watts of power whereas tanning beds produce about 1200 watts or more. "I do not think these lights are harmful, however the long term effects of the UV lights are not known," comments Dr. Peredo. She recommends using a hand cream with SPF 15 or higher before getting your nails done. Try Boots No. 7 Protect and Perfect Hand Cream with SPF 15, $14. To play it fair, many nail salons use UV lamps to help dry polish after a regular manicure too.
Make sure you go to a credible nail salon to get gels. Some salons may be purchasing cheap gel products from manufacturers with little quality control. One particularly dangerous ingredient, is a chemical called methyl methacrylate. It can cause shortness of breath and irritate the eyes and skin.
I’m a fan of Creative Nail Design Shellac (which doesn't use the chemical) and OPI Axxium. There’s also a DIY system now I love called Sensationail, $59.99. The manufacturers of these products are super credible.
"Just like acrylics, gels, and nail enhancements in general, a lot of the potential for damage is in the removal process, or more specifically the improper removal process," states Lippmann. "A lot of people get impatient with the amount of time that it takes for the gel to dissolve, and they end up pulling the product off and that’s what damages the nail."
You can either go to the salon and pay to have the gels removed (by soaking in acetone and having them file a bit away) or you can soak them off at home by applying an acetone soaked cotton ball to each nail and wrapping them in tin foil for about ten minutes or you can try Deborah Lippmann's The Stripper To Go Nail Lacquer Finger Mitts, $12 for a pack of 6 mitts. This helps the gel loosen up and slide off. Still, you may have to file some off.
When you or your manicurist does the removal process right (it shouldn't hurt), you don’t damage your real nails and yes, your gel manicure does last from 10 days to two weeks so the soaking is worth it. Long term effects of acetone are still not clear, but it is drying. After removing a gel manicure, Lippmann recommends soaking your nails in cuticle oil to replenish any moisture lost.