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Gel Manicure Dangers and Safer Options Recommended on Dr. Oz Show

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Gel manicure

Controversy over the dangers of gel manicures has made it a confusing issue for many women. In a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Oz and his special guest alert viewers to what the potential dangers are, how some manicurists do not follow safety recommendations, and what you can do to have a safer gel manicure or improve on a non-gel manicure for more beautiful hands.

“It’s the hottest trend in salons across the country—gel manicures. But could this special process that gives your nails polished perfection come at a price?” asks Dr. Oz as he warns viewers that the price of beauty could come at the cost of your health.

“Gel manicures are inherently dangerous,” says special guest dermatologist Anne Chapas, M.D., “because many women are innocently going into salons thinking they are making their hands look better, but they are really putting themselves at some very serious risks. We’re seeing increases in infection as well as damage to nails as a result of gel manicures.”

Dr. Chapas explains that the health risks come from the process used in gel manicures to give women a perfect nail shine. Aside from the polished perfection, the attraction of a gel manicure for women is that it offers a chip-free, smudge-free manicure that lasts up to 3 weeks.

“Gel manicures have 3 major problems that can cause significant medical problems,” says Dr. Chapas, who lists the 3 problems as follows:

Gel manicure problem #1: An application process that uses skin cancer-causing UV light.

Dr. Chapas tells viewers that she and her staff can often see signs of premature aging of the skin and damage associated with skin cancer in women who have had gel manicures by looking at their skin with a special light called a “Wood’s Lamp.” In one Dr. Oz guest who admitted to having gel manicures, the Wood’s Lamp showed skin damage on her hands.

However, according to a statement by the Nail Manufacturer’s Council on Safety, “…the amount of UV exposure is equivalent to very minimal additional sun exposure. These small lamps, which are used every 2 to 3 weeks and take 15 seconds to 2 minutes to cure per coat, are nothing like tanning beds.”

But, when Dr. Oz and his staff investigated how gel manicures were performed in practice in public nail spas, they found that exposure to the UV light could be as long as 8 minutes, which significantly increases the risk of developing a skin cancer.

Gel manicure problem #2: A removal process using chemicals and force together that thins nails.

Dr. Chapas explains that in order to remove old nail polish for a gel manicure, that the nails have to be soaked in an acetone solution in order to make the polish soft enough to remove. Acetone not only softens the nail polish, but also the nails, and can cause irritation of the skin. A second point she makes is that removing the old polish requires nail-damaging abrasive action. Therefore, a softened nail in conjunction with scraping the softened nail polish off, results in a significant amount of the top of the nails being removed.

“A recent study showed that one application of gel manicure removal thins the nail by 50 percent,” says Dr. Chapas as she advises viewers that if they have already had one process done, to avoid having it done again.

Gel manicure problem #3: Introduction of harmful bacteria and molds that cause infections

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In a model demonstration of what happens after a fingernail is soaked in acetone, Dr. Oz shows viewers that many manicurists use a metal tool to scrape off the softened nail polish and that in the process the abrasive action also removes a layer of nail that extends to the surrounding skin. The surrounding skin is often broken in the process, which increases the risk of an infection developing in the finger.

”When you make those breaks in the nail, bacteria can go into the nail and the most common bacteria that goes in is staphylococcus that causes a staph infection. The nails can become red, painful, swollen, but also we can have an entry point for fungus to get into and cause a fungal infection,” says Dr. Chapas.

When asked by Dr. Oz if there is ever a time that it’s okay to have a gel manicure, Dr. Chapas states that nothing warrants the risk to your health.

“In my opinion there’s no vacation, no special event, no other type of occurrence where I think that it’s worth it to get a gel manicure…the risks aren’t worth it” says Dr. Chapas.

To help make manicures safer for women who insist on continuing to have gel manicures, Dr. Chapas offers these 3 recommendations to lessen the health risks:

Safer gel manicure recommendation #1: Find a salon that uses LED rather than UV lights when curing the nail polish coats.

Safer gel manicure recommendation #2: Ask the manicurist to apply sunscreen to your hands before beginning the gel manicure process.

Safer gel manicure recommendation #3: Wear anti-UV light manicure gloves that have holes at the fingertips to protect the skin while under a UV curing light.

And, for those women who will not have a gel manicure, but want to have longer-lasting polished nails, Dr. Chapas recommends applying a nightly application of a new topcoat of polish that is free of the harmful chemicals toluene, formaldehyde and DBP (DiButyl-Phthalate). Dr. Chapas recommends the brands Zoya and LCN as nail topcoat products that are safe to use.

For an informative article about the hidden dangers of some nail products that claim to be toxin-free, follow the link to an article titled, “Toxic Chemicals Found in California Non-Toxic Nail Polishes.”

For additional articles about advice from Dr. Anne Chapas, follow the links to the articles listed below:

“Renowned Dermatologist Recommends 4 Breakthrough Wrinkle Fighters”

“Warning Signs of Premature Aging: Causes and Solutions”

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: The Dr. Oz Show— “The Ugly Truth About Gel Manicures”



This is the new rave. Many salons in the United States now offer this I understand. But the way I see done in pictures it's really dangerous. I would never want my wife, sister or mother do it. Neither I would want anyone risk her life to do this for a fake beauty.
I had one - my first and last. :). When it was time to remove the gel, it was really harsh!
Honestly, everything these days can cause cancer or make you sick or damage your body by just living in the world that we have deemed dangerous in every way possible. The sun, indoor air pollution, electrical tape causes reproductive cancer if handled without washing your hands immediately after contact, microwaves are killing us, artificial sweeteners, soaps, make-up, household cleaners, I could go on for days. Seems like it's pretty much hopeless if you read all the hype about how EVERYTHING we use, touch, take in, breath, own,or don't do as well. We should have died 5years ago. How am I going to live? This world has always been dangerous and people adapt. Stop freaking yourself and others out if you accidentally breath. It could kill you! Kill me now? No, later and less paranoid or sickly as those living in their bubbles that may burst and bam! No immune system or tough skin to keep you alive! I'm living and getting a freaking manicure, running to the store without 85spf sunscreen for five minutes and I think I'll be fine!
Jeanette, it's true what you are saying. The point for consumers (like myself) is that I want to know what compounds our chances of getting ill. You can live without certain things that can add to health problems. For me at least, a gel manicure is certainly one of those, in addition to other personal care products, household cleaning products, microwaved foods, fried and burned foods, plastic bottles with BPA, pesticides in the home and more - it all adds up and you have to look at what you are doing in your own life that can add up. It's not really about 'freaking out', but about being smarter with your choices - in my own opinion, of course.