Your Gel Polish Promises Weeks Of Immaculate Nails. But Is The Process Worth The Risk?


The feeling of having freshly manicured hands with your nails shaped and shimmering, that will last me for a month if you’re lucky, is fabulous. I see the appeal, don’t get me wrong. Much like how if you dress for it, you’re in the right state of mind for it- having your nails done is ultimately a testament to you taking care of yourself.

However, is it really a manicure that you’re getting done or a manicurse?

What’s The Damage?

A few thousands at the salon aside, I’m talking about the physical damage of getting gel manicures. For starters, gel polish is long lasting. So there is minimal to no moisture transfer from the environment to the nail plate for about a month at a time. This not only dehydrates your nails, but can also lead to thinning.

A manicure also involves cuticle care. While pushing back the cuticle is harmless, cutting them can remove what is keeping your nail matrix protected against infectious microorganisms. Besides this, the removal process of gel polish is very harsh and involves soaking your fingers in acetone. This is extremely dehydrating and irritating for your cuticles.

Worse even is when the polish starts peeling between appointments and we get to picking at the polish. This is traumatising to the plate and cuticles, further leading to brittle nails. Increased amount of damage to the superficial layer can also cause longitudinal splitting.

The Effect Of UV / LED Lamps

UV lamps or LED lamps are used to harden gel polish at the salon. Both of these emit UVA rays- also emitted by the sun- which penetrate deep within the skin. LED lamps harden the polish faster that UV lamps, resulting to shorter exposure to these rays, and are a safer alternative.


It is however important to note that we view a sunscreen as a crucial part of our skincare routine to protect ourselves against these UVA rays- so why are we willingly exposing our hands to them? Although there is limited research and no conclusive evidence of this, researchers at UC San Diego say that exposure of UV lamps can cause cell death and potentially irreversible damage to the DNA.

These UVA rays destroy collagen, and are associated with skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinomas, a type of skin cancer, is a result of prolonged exposure to tanning beds or such lamps- and is often seen at the backs of the hands. 

Photoaging Of The Hands

As we age naturally, collagen production and skin elasticity decreases. This contributes to skin wrinkling, thinning and sagging. Ageing also cause nails to be dull and brittle. Moreover, the first signs of ageing are visible on our neck and, you guessed it right, the backs of our hands. Getting gel manicures only fastens this process of photoaging. This can be a bother for many, cosmetically.

Although hand ageing is preventable by controlled sun exposure and proper skincare, it is not reversible.


Preventative Measures

We’re all probably aware of the risks that come with getting that nail art and sexy nails but of course we want them. So, here are some measures to follow for minimal damage-

  1. Before your visit to the salon, apply a generous amount of sunscreen to your hands.
  2. Ask the nail tech to leave your cuticles alone- push them back but don’t cut them off.
  3. Wear protective gloves with the fingertips cut off when exposing your hands to UV or LED lamps.
  4. Don’t pick at the polish, no matter how tempting.
  5. Apply petroleum jelly along your cuticles before dipping your fingertips in acetone to prevent dehydration.
  6. Use cuticle oil or hand cream often and in plentiful.
  7. Take frequent vacations from gel polish and switch to air dry polish or press-on nails whenever possible.

Kloss Beauty Customisable Press-On Nails

Renée Cosmetics Stick-On Nails

YouGlow Nail Wraps

Pipa Bella Stick-On Nails


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Beauty Writer

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