“When it comes to gel manicures, we don’t know if it’s the chemical in the polish that’s being applied to the nail, or if it’s the manner in which the polish has to be removed (by soaking each nail for ten minutes or more in acetone), but we do know that gel manicures cause a decrease in nail density,” says Assistant Professor of Dermatology at NYU and dermatologist Chris Adigun, who also oversees NYU’s Nail Disorder Clinic. She cites a recentUniversity of Miami study in which ultrasound and confocal reflection microscopy was used to measure the depth of the nail before and after gel manicures.
A thinning nail plate is just the half of it: Possible carcinogens associated with UV drying lamps used in some gel manicure procedures can do further damage to hands and nails. (The jury is still out on whether UV dryers are harmful — a widely publicized study from 2009 that showed two women contracted cancerous lesions on their hands after exposure to UV dryers has since been scientifically refuted.) What’s more, for some gel manicure recipients, allergies to the bonding chemical in the polish (the same stuff used in Krazy Glue) can cause nails to peel and split after removing gel polish.
Finally, even with careful nail hydration and hand protection, Adigun recommends taking an occasional break from back-to-back gel manis to hydrate and repair nails. Dare to go bare for the sporadic week or two, no matter how unglamorous it may feel; it’ll keep your tips hard as, well, nails.
Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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