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To Gel or Not to Gel?

Concerned about the safety of gel manicures? Here’s the cosmetic chemist perspective.

Thinkstock / Nails: Talia Escribano
To Gel or Not to Gel?

With words like contact dermatitis (skin reaction from an irritant), onycholysis (separation of nail plate), paronychia (infection around nail bed) and furunculosis (recurring boils on lower legs) being associated with nail salon treatments over the last decade, most nail salons have worked hard to uphold sanitary standards to keep their customers safe.

However, the new term “skin cancer” floating around sounds far more severe and has nothing to do with the sanitary practices of the salon.  You may have heard whisperings or read articles regarding the safety of gel manicures. It may even be a personal concern that you have been wrestling over for the past year—to gel or not to gel.

MORE: Other Potential Damage From Gel Manicures

Back in 2009, the Journal of the American Medicine Association Dermatology published an observation stating that two healthy, middle-aged women with no previous personal or family history of cancer developed skin cancer (non-melanoma, thank goodness) on the back of their hands. The common link between these two women was the exposure to UV light from gel manicures. The paper concluded that more studies need to be conducted to determine if UV exposure from this popular nail treatment can lead to skin cancer.

I believe that any reasonable person who knows about the damaging effects of UV light can understand the concern. If you choose to gel, then I recommend taking necessary precautions such as applying a sunscreen before going under the light. Prolong time between visits to reduce exposure (once or twice a month instead of weekly). I’ve even heard one dermatologist recommend wearing fingerless gloves to prevent the UV rays from coming in direct contact with your skin. The key is to limit the exposure by any means necessary.

MORE: Get the Perfect At-Home Mani

If you choose not to gel but still want the benefit of a quick dry, high shine, long lasting manicure, then you are in luck—there are alternatives available.

Dazzle Dry Quick Drying Nail System offers all of the benefits of a gel manicure with none of the side effects. This nail system air dries quickly and can be removed easily with regular non-acetone polish remover. It’s free of formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates and nitrocellulose.  Dazzle Dry is available in a wide array of colors and collections (Esnavi Live is the most recent), allowing you to express yourself without a skin cancer care.

Julep Freedom Polymer Top Coat can turn any polish into a gel-like manicure with the help of a 60-watt light bulb after two minutes. An independent testing laboratory ran a clinical study that showed 82 percent of the women using Julep Freedom Polymer Top Coat showed minimal wear five days after application.

MORE: Your Guide to Non-Toxic Polish

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