At the Foot & Body Boutique, we get a fair number of calls about gel nails—mostly asking if we do them at all, or if we think they’re safe.
To make a long story short: no, we do not do gel nails here. (Don’t worry, we’ll be making that short story longer in just a minute.)
We definitely agree that they can look fantastic, and we get why their combination of appearance and durability would be appealing. But the truth is—like all artificial nails and stick-ons—they can still be unhealthy for your nails and skin and put you at risk.
In a nutshell, that’s why we don’t do them at the Foot & Body Boutique. But let’s crack open that nutshell a bit.
What Are Gel Nails?
Gel nails have been increasing in popularity over the last couple of decades as an alternative to acrylic. There are a couple of different types—mainly hard nails that can be made into extensions, or soft nails that can’t—but in either case the process involves applying the gel to your nail, then curing it under a UV or LED light source until it becomes hard.
From a pure fashion standpoint, gel nails would seem to have some obvious benefits:
They’re extremely resistant to chipping, smudging, peeling, and cracking
They have a highly glossy finish and hold their color and shine longer than traditional polish
They generally last 2-3 weeks
They generally tend to “feel” more flexible and natural than acrylic nails
So, in other words, we’re not surprised when we get questions about them. They really do look great and last a long time.
But unfortunately, there’s some ugly truth, too.
Downsides and Risks of Gel Nails
Although gel nail technology is improving, and some brands are definitely less toxic or risky than others, the truth is, there’s still a long way to go before they become a truly “safe” alternative.
- Unlike traditional polish removers, which generally use gentler chemicals, gel nails typically require pure acetone during the removal process. This is especially risky for those with weak and brittle nails and can damage even healthy ones.
- UV exposure. There’s a reason sunglasses and sunscreen are outdoor essentials. The UV-A light emitted during the curing process—even by so-called “safer” LED lamps—is up to four times stronger than the sun’s rays and can damage skin and even increase your risk of skin cancer.
- Nail thinning. Gel nails thin out our nails and make them more susceptible to breaking and water damage. The removal process is probably the biggest culprit, although the chemical composition of the gel nail itself may also play a role. Peeling the nail off yourself typically removes the top layer of the nail plate.
- Bumps and knocks to the artificial nail can create an opening for dirt, bacteria, and fungi to get in and lead to unsightly infections and discoloration. The same goes for any naturally lifting that might happen after a few weeks. And if the nail is re-glued without proper cleaning—yeah, don’t do that.
- The chemicals and solutions used to apply and remove gel polish can, in some cases, spur an eczema-like rash on your skin around the nails.
- Slow regrowth. It may take six months or longer for a new, healthy nail plate to grow in after it’s been damaged. That is a looooong time to wait.
At the Foot & Body Boutique, we’ve built our reputation on providing the cleanest, safest, and healthiest environment possible for your skin and nails. Unfortunately, that mission just isn’t compatible with offering gel manicures and pedicures, right now.
While we don’t generally recommend gel nails, if you do decide to get them elsewhere, please at least make sure the salon you choose has a strong track record of safety and has well trained and licensed technicians. While there will always be risks, it’s much safer to get your nails done from someone who knows what they’re doing—and how to do it as safely as possible—than someone who doesn’t!
But really, instead of gambling with the health of your skin and nails, come on down to the Foot & Body Boutique for a totally safe and healthy manicure or pedicure! You’ll feel great, you’ll look great, and you won’t have to worry about what might or might not have happened to your nails in the process!
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