Gel manicures can cause nail problems such as nail thinning, peeling and cracking, warn dermatologists.
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF DERMATOLOGY EXPERT: Information provided by Chris Adigun,
MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of
dermatology at The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at New York
University School of Medicine in New York, N.Y.
HOW GEL MANICURES WORK:
Gel nail polish is more durable than other nail polishes and can last two weeks
or more without chipping.
Ultraviolet (UV) lamps are used to "cure" or seal the polish to the nail.
Gel nail polish is hard to remove as nails must be soaked in acetone for at
least 10-15 minutes in order to rid the nail of the polish.
CONSEQUENCES OF GEL MANICURES:
In one study, five women who had reported nail weakness, brittleness and
thinning from gel manicures were examined by dermatologists, who attributed
these symptoms to the gel manicures. In addition, one woman underwent
ultrasound and reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM) measurements of the nail
plate before and after one gel manicure, which showed thinning of the nail
plate. Dr. Adigun noted that it is unclear whether the brittleness from gel manicures
is attributed to the chemicals in the gel nail polish or from the acetone soaks
needed to remove the polish.
Acetone, which is needed to break down the chemical bonds of gel polish, is
very drying to the nails and irritating to the skin surrounding the nail. In
some cases, an allergic reaction to acetone could cause contact dermatitis.
Women who frequently get gel manicures should consider their skin cancer risk
since the UV light needed to cure the gel manicure is a risk factor for skin
cancer. In addition, photo damage from UV lamps could result in cosmetic
changes to the exposed surrounding skin.
Nails continually covered with polish obscure any problems occurring under the
nail, such as an infection or tumor, and could delay diagnosis and treatment.
THE GEL MANICURE "DIET":
Dr. Adigun noted that while occasional gel manicures do not pose a serious
threat to nail health, she did advise women who frequently receive these
manicures to be aware of the potential risks with repeated use. For women who
experience nail problems due to gel manicures, Dr. Adigun offered the following
gel manicure "diet" tips:
Pay attention to your nails and allow nails to re-grow and repair. Consider
getting these manicures occasionally rather than every two weeks to decrease
the consequences of chemical and physical trauma.
If you get gel manicures, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen on your hands to
minimize photodamage as a result of the UV exposure during the curing process.
Be very proactive with the manicurist. Tell her not to push or manipulate the
cuticle because that will increase the risks of inflammation and infection and
also dry out the nail.
Use traditional nail polish instead of gel nail polish if you experience
recurring nail problems. Women with a known allergy to acetone also should use
traditional nail polish, as acetone is required to remove gel polish.
Rehydrate nails several times a day with a moisturizing product, such as
petroleum jelly, to reverse any signs of brittleness, thinning or chipping.
Don't chip gel nail polish with other nails or tools to remove polish.
To decrease irritation to the skin, only soak nails, not the whole hands or
fingers, in acetone while nail polish is being removed. If you get gel
manicures frequently, consider buying finger wraps that expose only the nails
and protect surrounding skin.
If you notice any unusual changes to the nails, see a board-certified
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF DERMATOLOGY EXPERT ADVICE:
"In general, any manicure left in place for an extended period of time is not a
good idea because you are not seeing what is going on underneath the nail
polish," said Dr. Adigun. "As is the case with most things, moderation is the
key when it comes to gel manicures. If you get them regularly, you need to be
aware of the possible consequences and see a board-certified dermatologist if a
persistent nail problem develops."