Gel manicures have increased in popularity over the years because not only do they look great and are very durable, the process is just as quick as a regular manicure – but with better results. Gel manicures do come with risks, however, including skin damage from the UV light that’s used to cure the manicure. Using proper UV protection during this process is very important, so if your manicurist is not insisting upon this, do it yourself.
The benefits are great, but what are the risks?
Those with weak or brittle nails may not be able to take a gel manicure, with the acetone used to remove the polish particularly hard. A UV lamp is used to harden the polish and acts as a binder to the nail, so anyone sensitive to UV light should avoid this type of manicure.
The lamps use UVA rays and cause skin damage
UV rays come in two forms, A and B. The lamps used to harden the gel nail polish use UVA rays, which can cause skin damage on a DNA and collagen level, which leads to premature ageing. It can also increase skin cancer risk. LED lamps also emit UVA light, and are not a safe alternative.
The UVA light emitted from the curing lamps is four times stronger than the sun’s rays, and while it is only used for a short period of time, it’s still very strong. If you are getting frequent gel manicures, you’re allowing a lot of skin-damaging UV rays onto your hands if not properly protected.
The result? Wrinkly hands before their time.
How to avoid UV damage to your hands
Use the correct polish with the correct curing lamp for the right amount of time. Different lamps are for specific use with specific polish formulas, so stick to the designated lamps and polishes, and abide the time limits.
To protect your hands from UV light, wear fingerless gloves, cut the ends off dark, opaque gloves, or use a similar protection garment with sun protection of SPF50+. Sunscreen on the hands can help, but that can be rinsed or rubbed off during the process. It must be applied at least 15 minutes before your manicure, and not around or on the actual fingernails, since it can interfere with binding and polish application.
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