To many a nail-polish addict, gel manicures can seem like nail nirvana. The quick-drying lacquers have a chemical component that hardens under a UV light, delivering glossy color that last for weeks without chipping or losing its sheen.
Sounds like a dream come true, right? Not so fast. Gel manicures have a dark side: They can do some serious damage to your nails.
For starters, you have to soak them off with 100% pure acetone (unlike traditional polish removers that are cut with gentler chemicals and nail strengtheners), and the harsh solution can cause nails to weaken, and in some cases spur an eczema-like rash on the skin around the nails.
But the worst damage comes after a few weeks, when the polish starts chipping, and you take it upon yourself to help it along by peeling or filing it off. The top layer of the nail often comes with it, leaving nails thin and susceptible to water damage. At that point you have to wait until a new, healthy nail plate grows in, which could take months.
If you’re determined to stick with gel manicures, when the time comes to remove it, ask your technician to wrap nails in acetone-soaked cotton, and then cover with foil – this method requires less soaking time. Or opt out all together and try one of the new gel-alternative topcoats that keeps nails glossy, but can be taken off safely with regular ol’ polish remover.