The Painted Truth – How Safe is Gel Nail Polish?


It sounds almost too good to be true — a nail polish that has no dry time, no smudging or dents, and stays shiny and chip-resistant for weeks is like the ultimate nail dream. And I personally love it, like millions of women around the world do, comforting myself that I’ll save time and nail damage with less frequent nail painting…Until I spotted this article on the possible alarming side effects of gel manis & pedis, that is.

Dermatologist Dr Richard K. Scher raised his concerns about the potential health hazards of gel polish at the American Academy of Dermatology’s (AAD) Summer Academy Meeting.The risks are mainly related to the way the polish is applied and removed.

“They require regular exposure to ultraviolet light,” explains Dr Scher. “And there have been a couple of articles which suggested that damage of the digits around the nails has occurred.”

This damage may not be only limited to dreadful skin aging, but includes increased risk of squamous cell skin cancer.

A previous case study by University of Texas researchers published in the Archives of Dermatology in April 2009 reported that two women developed non-melanoma skin cancer on the tops of their hands from regular exposure to UV nail lamps. Both women were middle-aged, otherwise healthy, and had no cancer history. Although the numbers in this report are small and insufficient to point fingers conclusively to the nail lamps, but this is a definite possibility since the relationship between cumulative UV damage and skin cancer in other parts of the body has long been well-established.

Along with UV exposure, Dr Scher also points out that acetone can be damaging too. As the thick layers of painted enamel is extremely adherent to the nails, women have to drown their nails (or sometimes entire fingers) into acetone to soak off the gel polish.

Imagine getting a manicure every two to three weeks, the solvent can seriously dry out the nail (sounds familiar?) and even cause irritation and inflammation (irritant dermatitis) in the surrounding skin. That, in turn, often predisposes to infected swollen digits as the skin barrier is broken.

Here are healthy nail care dos & don’ts we should observe while enjoying a prettifying treat at the nail salon (yes…I still absolutely cannot do without it!).

Healthy shiny nails are the sexiest!