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Does Gel Polish Damage Nails? What To Keep In Mind.

Posted on October 28 2019

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It’s no secret that lot of women love gel manicures. And why shouldn’t they? Nail gels last a lot longer than traditional nail polish and often provides a really deep lustrous shine when done properly. Gel polish is also a relatively new technology. Consequently, there have been a lot of questions regarding how this manicure affects nails. Does gel polish damage nails? Let's take a look.

What Makes Gel Polish Tick?

Let’s take a step back for a moment: what makes gel polish different from traditional polish? First off, traditional nail polish is formulated from nitrocellulose, as well as polymers, pigments and other ingredients, all of which are dissolved in a volatile solvent. Dip gels on the other hand also include acrylic polymers in its formulation, as well as pigments and colorants, but these are not dissolved in a solvent.

It is due to this formulation that gel polish does not harden after application. Specifically, with traditional nail polish, the volatile solvent evaporates in air leaving behind the pigmented nitrocellulose film. Gel polish requires it to be held under either a special UV or LED light to harden. This allows your manicurist or yourself to build-up your manicure in layers till you achieve the look you want. This consequently makes a gel manicure much stronger than regular nail polish can ever be. Unfortunately, this very quality can be potentially harmful to your nails.

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What Causes Nail Damage?

One of the biggest drawbacks of a gel manicure is this seals-off your nails. This basically prevents your nails from “breathing”, which can dehydrate them. This dehydrating effect in turn weakens your nails. In fact, studies have shown that nails that have been given a gel manicure exhibit some degree of thinning. That being said, what exactly causes nails to thin out has not yet been determined.

What seems to be the biggest culprit regarding how gel polish damages your nails is how it’s removed. Unlike regular polish which requires just a nail polish remover, gel manicures require you to soak your nails in acetone for at least 10 minutes. Researchers think this soaking process and the subsequent removal of the layer of polish takes with it a very thin layer of nail.

Should You Swear Off Gels? All Is Not Lost!

The question now becomes: should you stop getting gel polish manicures? Fortunately, you can still continue to enjoy the benefits of this type of nail polish by following these precautions:

  1. Don’t get back-to-back manicures. As previously mentioned, gel nail polish doesn’t let your nails “breathe” as easily as regular polish. By giving your nails a “break”, you allow your nails to recover its lost moisture, making them healthier.
  2. Correct application is key. Gel polish that’s incorrectly applied – meaning the polish wasn’t properly cured – is harder to remove. This will mean you or your nail technician will have to chip away at the polish with instruments. Physically chipping away at the polish can obviously damage your nails.
  3. Watch out for “toxic” gels. The chemicals formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate or DBP are three nail manicure ingredients that are can have a toxic effect on your  body's total health. While these 3 ingredients are slowly being phased out by many manufacturers in favor of healthier alternatives, there are still a number of polishes that contain them. Before getting a manicure, or buying gel polish, make sure the product is free of these three chemicals. Rossi Nails gels fortunately do not have these chemicals in its formula.
  4. Use sunblock. Even though the UV exposure your hand gets when curing the gel polish is brief, it is intense. Consequently, the damage to your skin can build up, especially if you regularly get a gel manicure. This means you should treat that UV or LED nail lamp as you would the sun, and apply sunblock on your fingers before you get that mani. 
  5. Cuticle oil is your friend. Cuticle oil is designed to moisturize your nails beds, particularly after a manicure. Most reputable salons will apply cuticle oil after a treatment session. If you like giving yourself a manicure at home though, applying this moisturizing oil can be something you might forget to do. If this is the case, always remember to slather your fingers liberally around the cuticle area with this oil.

Rossi Nails Cuticle Oil

The truth is any form of manicure can potentially weaken your nails due to the effect their chemical ingredients can have. Just be sure to keep the factors that can potentially lead to nail damage, as well as the steps you can take to prevent or lessen this. By doing so, you can still enjoy all of the benefits a gel polish can provide your nails.

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