I’ve just snagged my paper thin index finger nail on a shirt that I was pulling over my head. No matter how much I file it down, it keeps splitting because it’s horribly thin. I’ve never had thin nails before! In fact, my nails have always been extraordinarily healthy, that is, until I had a gel manicure.
I got a couple of these mani’s because, despite my gut warning me against it, it seemed like the perfect solution for a girl who can’t keep polish from getting chipped for more than a day. Gel manicures, as opposed to acrylic nails, have become the Holy Grail of nail fashionistas. We can now take the time and money to have all manner of adorable colors, glitters and designs painted on our nails, because it lasts – for a minimum of 2 weeks! This seemed like a perfect solution when I had a bunch of appearances stacked up, because I never have to worry about how awful my nails might look in a TV close-up.
I’m typically very careless with my nails. Always in a hurry, I dash around pruning trees and weeding without taking the time to find my gardening gloves, and I often plunge my glove-less hands into the washing up bowl because my rubber gloves have mysteriously disappeared. With my gel mani, I could even dig my fingers into plant pots to test the soil, and my gleaming nails would come up perfect. Nothing short of a pick axe would dent the sheen.
However, there is a price to pay, and I’m not sure I’m willing to pay it anymore. Aside from the actual dollar cost (upwards of 35 bucks), there are health concerns that I can no longer ignore. The main companies that manufacture gel polishes ( CND Shellac and Gelish) will assure you that the polishes are 3-free (tolune, DBP, and formaldehyde,) and they are, however, there I found that there were other issues to contend with.
Here’s what I don’t like:
1: It’s next to impossible to remove the polish yourself. You need to have your nails soaked in acetone and then the polish must be chipped off with one of those steel tools. It always gives me the shivers. Even if they make dainty little cotton pads to place on your nail, and then wrap each one in a foil packet, you can still feel the acetone seeping into your skin. Acetone is the most drying thing you can put on your skin and nails, although it’s not toxic in the amounts that are applied in a nail salon, it doesn’t feel or smell great at all. Moreover, if you don’t wish to have another gel manicure, you still have to pay for the labor involved for this chipping-off process.
2. The ultraviolet lamp freaks me out. They’re like mini tanning beds. Some salons boast that they have safer LED lamps to “cure” your polish, but they still emit harmful rays. Although it hasn’t been proven in anyway that these lamps will create skin cancers on the backs on your hands (or regular gel-users would have tanned hands), it doesn’t feel right to me to have this kind of intense exposure.
3. Naked nails are healthy: Women typically remove normal nail polish after about a week. Even if you have a regular twice monthly manicure, that still leaves a week for your nails to breathe. I know the nails don’t technically “breathe”, but you know what I mean! It doesn’t feel right for my nails to be encased in 4 layers of hermatically-sealed polish 24/7.
4. Some gel polishes contain methyl acrylate, which can create a severe allergic reaction. Some polishes contain the cancer-causing agent, Butylated Hydroxyanisol. I don’t like that it’s very hard to find out if the polish your salon is using, contains any of these chemicals. I did my research before having my gel applied, and the brands used did not contain these chemicals, however, many cheaper gel brands that are beginning to flood the market, may. I will say that the brand that I used, Shellac, doesn’t contain any of these harmful chemicals. Up until last year, they used a trace amount of methyl pyrrolidone, but in 2011, it was removed from all their formulas. So, if you are a die-hard gelist, this would be one of the brands to go for.
4. My biggest gripe is the state of my nails post manicure. If you go for a couple of months with the gels (as I did), your natural nails will not be in great shape when they finally see the light of day. It also takes a good couple of months for them to grow back strong and healthy.
If you are wedded to your gel manicures, maybe consider giving your nails a break every other time – so 2 weeks on and then 2 weeks off. If, however, you’re concerned about the health risks, you might want to stick with the wonderful selection of non-toxic polishes now available. That’s the big upside – just check out the stunning new Pritti NYC shades, oh and I’m obsessed with Brown Nail by Zoya – ooh that’s what I’m going for this Fall. I’ll just have to commit to wearing those darn gardening gloves.