The Truth About Gel Manicures and Skin Damage

We all know that gel manicures aren’t great for your nails—why it’s important to take breaks if you are a gel devotee. But did you know that gel manicures damage your skin, too?

Pretty, at a price…

Pretty, at a price…

Those LED nail-hardening lamps don’t just emit LED light; they emit UVA rays. Is a few minutes of UVA light every few weeks a big deal, though? Um, yes, girl. Here’s why and two simple preventative measures to save your skin—without giving up your beloved gels!

The Intensity of Nail Lamps

Nail techs might mistakenly tell you (happened to me) that the LED or fluorescent nail lamps they use to cure or harden your gel polish don’t emit UVA rays, but that’s just not true. The lamp’s concentrated UVA rays are approximately four times the strength of the sun’s UVA rays, which are responsible for DNA damage leading to sun spots, a breakdown of collagen (wrinkles) and skin cancer, notes board-certified dermatologist Chris G. Adigun, MD, FAAD. Over time, this intense exposure can cause skin damage.

“Tanning booths also emit mostly UVA rays, and we know that even one session of fake-baking ups your skin cancer risk by leaps and bounds.  Resting your hands under the UV lamp or LED lights is no different,” says Kim Motola, founder of ManiGlovz

Protect Your Skin During a Gel Manicure

Besides avoiding gel manis and the curing lamps completely, there are two great ways to protect your skin without giving up your fave nail service.

High five for younger, healthier skin. Pictured here:  Blue Marble ManiGlovz .

High five for younger, healthier skin. Pictured here: Blue Marble ManiGlovz.

  1. Apply sunscreen.

    Make sure it’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher to protect from UVA rays and apply it at least 15 minutes before a gel manicure for it to soak in. Avoid getting sunscreen on your nails, as it could get in the way of the polish application. Sound unrealistic that you’ll remember to sunscreen-up in advance? Let’s go to option numero 2…

  2. Wear fingerless gloves.

    It may sound a little ridiculous—gloves at a manicure?!—and the ladies at your nail salon might judge you (or think you are brilliant), but it’s a pretty easy solution. They can go on right before polish time and come off right after to enjoy the hand rub. Dr. Adigun recommends wearing fingerless gloves with a UPF of 50 and opaque fabric, meaning no knits. Check out ManiGlovz, which are available in a bunch of fun prints and colors and come in a little clear pouch for optimal purse organization.

Besides, you don’t want your beautiful manicure to eventually live on hands that look old as sh*$! Or worse, get the big C. A little prevention goes a long way, as always.

Done with gel manis for good? Good for you. Looking for a healthier nail salon overall? Read this about what to look for and what to avoid in nail salons.


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