Gel manicures: Nail friend or foe?


If you’re like me and have jumped on the gel manicure bandwagon in an attempt to find a quick-drying, more durable substitute for traditional nail polish, you may soon be on the hunt for another alternative.

Dermatologists are concerned that this latest nail fad can cause problems, such as nail thinning associated with brittleness, peeling and cracking, especially with frequent use. And, what’s more, it can camouflage nail disease if done repeatedly.

“In general, any manicure left in place for an extended period of time is not a good idea because you are not seeing what is going on underneath the nail polish,” said 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.

In fact, in one study, women who had reported nail weakness, brittleness and thinning from gel manicures were examined by dermatologists, who attributed these symptoms to the gel manicures. It’s unclear, however, whether these side effects are due to the chemicals in the gel nail polish or the skin-irritating acetone soaks used for removal of the polish.

Dr. Adigun noted that while occasional gel manicure doesn’t pose a serious threat to nail health, she does advise women who frequently receive these manicures to be aware of the potential risks with repeated use. And for women who experience nail problems due to gel manicures, she offered a few helpful gel manicure “diet” tips:

  • Limit the frequency of gel manicures to decrease consequences of chemical and physical trauma
  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen on hands to minimize UV exposure during the curing process
  • Ask manicurists not to push the cuticle to avoid potential inflammation, infection and dryness
  • Rehydrate nails daily with petroleum jelly to reverse signs of brittleness, thinning or chipping
  • Refrain from using tools or chipping gel nail polish with other nails to remove polish
  • Decrease skin irritation by only soaking nails in acetone, instead of whole hands or fingers
  • See a board-certified dermatologist if you notice any unusual changes to your nails

“As is the case with most things, moderation is the key when it comes to gel manicures,” said Dr. Adigun. “If you get [gel manicures] regularly, you need to be aware of the possible consequences and see a board-certified dermatologist if a persistent nail problem develops.”

4 thoughts on “Gel manicures: Nail friend or foe?

    • That’s interesting about the lighter colors – will have to try! But such a bummer overall – I thought they finally found a solution to nail polish nicks and chips, but looks like it’s back to the drawing board!


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