It’s the beginning of sandal season! With the arrival of spring, many women will be heading to nail salons for a manicure or pedicure. Spring break, Easter, Mother’s Day and graduations are all good reasons for wanting to pamper your fingers and toes. Are you one of the millions of women who will choose to use a gel polish? If so, there might be cause for you to reconsider that choice. I would like to share a personal experience. One I hope many of you will keep in mind as you head to nail salons this spring.
I have been getting manicures regularly for about 25 years. Several years ago, I jumped on the gel polish bandwagon. Gel polishes wear like iron. They don’t chip, stay shiny and look flawless for at least 2 weeks. I loved them, and although they cost twice as much as a regular manicure, the wear factor was worth it. That was until an ‘age’ spot on my hand began to grow larger and darker. There was something about it that did not look right so I went to see my dermatologist.
It only took minutes for him to recognize that it was basal cell carcinoma. Since I have very few spots or discoloration (Thank you Alpha Hydrox!), he asked me about manicures. I told him I had been getting manicures for many years and had been using the new gel products for some time. He shared that he was seeing a large increase in the number of women with unusual spots and discoloration on their hands. He believes it is due to the UVA drying lights used with gel polishes. Gel manicures use UVA drying lamps and are the same kind of ultraviolet light used in tanning beds. He immediately used cryosurgery to freeze the large dark spot. I was glad I had it checked but I left there knowing that I’d had my last gel manicure.
Of course, everyone is different. Many women will use gel polishes without ever having a problem. But is it worth the risk? There are other reasons for reconsidering a gel polish manicure, as well. Here are a few things I have since learned about gel polishes and UVA drying.
- The UVA light used to dry the gel is known to damage skin cells much the same way as tanning beds.
- UVA lamps are not regulated and the wattage varies so the level of UVA exposure is unknown and inconsistent.
- Photo aging comes from UVA exposure. In other words, your nails might look great but the UVA exposure will cause the skin on your hands to age more quickly.
- Gel polishes block oxygen to the nail causing nails to become discolored, thin and brittle.
Some dermatologists suggest using a sunscreen before applying gel polishes. Another option is to wear UV-protective gloves with the fingertips cut off so only the nails are exposed to the light. Neither of these is fool-proof and does not address the other concerns about gel polish like thin nails. I still enjoy a manicure especially with today’s fun colors but I have not used gel products since that visit to the dermatologist. A few polish chips seems like a small price to pay for stronger nails, younger-looking hands and a lower risk of skin cancer.