What Gel Manicures Actually Do To Your Nails

Gel manicures have grown in popularity in recent years — and for good reason. Unlike regular manicures, gel manicures are durable, long-lasting, and chip-free. That's because gel polish consists of photo-curing polymers that are cured and hardened by a UV light. As a result, gel manicures can last up to three weeks without cracking or chipping (via Byrdie).

Despite their longevity and durability, however, gel manicures can potentially damage your nails and may even pose a risk to your overall health (via Marie Claire). According to a study from the Miami School of Medicine, gel manicures can actually weaken your nails. This is mostly due to the removal process. Improper removal of a gel manicure can result in the thinning of the nail plate, which can temporarily damage your nails, leaving them weak and brittle

The UV light exposure required to cure the manicure is another potential cause for concern. Although dermatologist and nail specialist Dana Stern told Marie Claire that one study concluded the risk posed by the UV lamp is fairly minimal, exposure to UV rays can generally increase your risk of developing skin cancer. That's why dermatologists recommend exercising caution by applying sunscreen to your hands shortly before getting a gel manicure.

How to prevent nail damage

Fortunately, you can mitigate these risks and maintain the health of your nails by following a few simple steps. For instance, you should try to avoid getting gel manicures back-to-back (via Teen Vogue). It's important to give your nails a chance to breathe in between manicures, as getting one gel manicure after another can lead to nail thinning and dehydration. Going at least two weeks in between gel manicures will give your natural nails time to recuperate.

Another good way to prevent nail damage is to avoid picking at or peeling your gel manicure. "As peeling and lifting begin, water can seep into the nail. This can harbor bacteria and possibly cause fungus," celebrity manicurist Jenna Hipp told Teen Vogue. "Once the peeling phase starts, it's hard not to pick at your polish. If you rip it off, you're probably taking some layers of your nail off with it. This kind of damage can take over six months to repair."

Removing your gel polish can also harm your nails, which is why it's important to let a professional remove it for you. If the polish is applied and cured correctly, it should come off fairly easily.