Gel manicures have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Fans of gel manicures say the polish lasts longer, stays shinier and is less likely to chip. Some even call the polish “invincible.”
So what’s not to love, right?
But at a recent medical conference a health expert warned that gel manicures may lead to many harmful nail problems or worse — cancer from the ultraviolet (UV) light necessary to “cure” the polish.
Dr. Chris Adigun said that when it comes to gel manicures, less is more.
Adigun, assistant professor of dermatology at The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU School of Medicine presented her report on March 1, 2013 at the American Academy of Dermatology's 71st annual meeting in Miami Beach, Florida.
"In general, any manicure left in place for an extended period of time is not a good idea because you’re not seeing what is going on underneath the nail polish," Dr. Adigun said in a press release from the American Academy of Dermatology.
"As is the case with most things, moderation is the key when it comes to gel manicures," she said.
Gel manicures use UV lamps to seal the gel to the nail, a process known as "curing." When the polish is ready to come off, the nails are soaked finger by finger in acetone for about 10 minutes because the chip-proof polish is harder to remove, said Kathy, a manicurist at Diamond Nail Salon and Spa in San Diego.
At the conference, Adigun said that gel manicures tend to damage the nails by leaving them thinner, or causing brittleness, cracking and peeling. This increases the possibility of developing infections.
Some people have also developed contact dermatitis, a skin rash that has the appearance of a burn, and can be easily transferred from the hands to the eyes.
Adigun cited one small study that found measurable nail thinning in five women who had regularly undergone the procedure. However she said that it was not clear from the data if the thinning was caused by the process that bakes the polish to the nails, or from extended exposure to chemicals in the nail polish or the acetone required to remove it.