Are Gel Manicures Really Safe?

UV lamp

If you’re a lover of nail polish like I am, then you know how annoying it is when you spend a lot of time and money at the salon, only to end up smudging or chipping your manicure the second you walk out the door. So, as you can probably imagine, when gel polish was introduced a couple years ago, nail polish junkies everywhere rejoiced, making it one of the most exciting beauty innovations we’ve seen in a long time.

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In case you’re new to the game, gel nail polish can last up to three weeks without chipping. Sounds like a perfect fix, right? Not so fast! The downside of gel polishes has to do with the fact that it contains a polymer. Here’s the problem with that: Because gel polish contains a polymer, most women sit with their hands under an ultraviolet lamp for up to 10 minutes for quick results, which can be damaging to the skin and possibly cause cancer in the long run.

According to a recent study conducted by the Medical College at Georgia Regent University, the risk for developing cancer after being exposed to UV lights was small; however, it also showed that on average, it would take about 11 visits over a two-year period before you start seeing the effects of sun damage.

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Although the risk of cancer is low, there are a couple precautions you can take to protect yourself, such as applying sunscreen on your hands before placing them under a UV lamp, or investing in UV-blocking gloves with the fingertips cut off.

Me personally? I prefer to paint my nails with regular ‘ole nail polish (OPI is my all-time favorite) and finish them off with a thin layer of top coat for great results. If gel manicures are your thing, you can still get them, but opt for air drying instead.