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Gel polish for manicures and pedicures has become so popular! The polish lasts a long time and doesn’t chip. Dr. Prasanthi Kandula herself loves a gel manicure before a vacation or a conference. But a recently published study has made her question this treatment – is gel polish really safe? Should we limit the number of gel manicures and pedicures we get?
UV lamps are essential for hardening the gel polish. These lamps emit UVA light just like tanning beds and natural sunlight. A recently published study from the University of California San Diego showed that human and mouse cells exposed to a popular nail lamp caused DNA damage and mutations. This type of DNA damage can lead to skin cancer. The study does not prove that UV lamps can cause cancer, because cells in a lab are more vulnerable to damage compared to a live human’s hand, but it’s important to be cautious. Continued and unprotected exposure to UVA light can increase the risk of skin cancer and lead to long term skin damage and wrinkles. So, what should you do if, like Dr. Kandula, you’re guilty of loving your gel manicures and pedicures? Here are her recommendations.
Tips for gel polish
- Wear fingerless UV protective manicure gloves.
- Apply broad spectrum waterproof sunscreen to hands or feet before heading to the nail salon.
- Sunscreen alone may not be enough to protect against UV from the lamps so bring your gloves!
- Alternate between gel and regular manicures/pedicures.
Tips for dip polish
If you choose dip powder polish as another option for a long lasting manicure, do the following:
- Select a dependable nail salon. Nail stylists use the same jar of acrylic powder for multiple customers and this increases the chance that the powder harbors bacteria. While the risk of infection is low because acetone is used during most manicures and pedicures and acts as a sterilizer Dr. Kandula recommends her patients use caution.
- Skip the gel topcoat after a dip polish so you don’t have to use the UV lamp.
Other tips for manicures and pedicures to consider
- Air dry your nails after regular polish and avoid the UV nail dryers.
- Avoid having your cuticles pushed back or removed to minimize infections.
- Lightly buff or file your nails – over buffing can weaken your nails and make them thinner and more brittle.
- Ask the salon if their equipment is sanitized between customers (autoclaves or dry-heat sterilizers are ideal).
- Bring your own drill bits, nail file, buffer, and pumice stone.
- Avoid shaving within 24 hours of a pedicure to minimize infections.
- Beware of LED lamps which also give off UV light
Follow these recommendations and enjoy a gel manicure occasionally! But if your nails have changed or do not look healthy after a manicure or a pedicure, please schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists at SkinCare Physicians near Boston.
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