Gel manicures can cause nail problems
Women are now opting for gel manicures as it offer long-lasting and durable results in a quick manner.
But dermatologists have warned that they can cause nail problems – such as nail thinning associated with brittleness, peeling and cracking – with frequent use and can camouflage nail disease if done repeatedly.
Gel nail polish is more durable than other nail polishes and can last two weeks or more without chipping, according to 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.
Ultraviolet (UV) lamps are used to “cure” or seal the polish to the nail, but it 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.
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.
Dr. Adigun has advised that 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, she said.
Nails continually covered with polish obscure any problems occurring under the nail, such as an infection or tumor, and could delay diagnosis and treatment, she added.
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 has offered some gel manicure “diet” tips:
She asked women to pay attention to their nails and allow nails to re-grow and repair. She advised 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, she suggested.
You should tell the manicurist not to push or manipulate the cuticle because that will increase the risks of inflammation and infection and also dry out the nail, she said.
Dr. Adigun also suggests using 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, she added.
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.
She advises to see a board-certified dermatologist if there is any unusual changes to the nails.