People are obsessed with their nails these days, aren’t they? Intricate nail art has become wildly popular with everyone from Miley Cyrus to the HelloGiggles girls. Among us mere mortals, the gel manicure is one of the preferred means to maintain those fancy designs for longer. That’s because the gel polish stays on for weeks without chipping or fading. But you may want to think twice before you’re lured into the nail salon by the promise of long-lasting, super-shiny nail color. Gel and shellac manicures, while they may give you the longest-lasting results, also come with a host of increasingly alarming health concerns.
First, let’s define the difference between an acrylic and a gel manicure. Gel nail polish is thicker than traditional nail polish, and made of a different kind of chemical compound. It “dries” using a UV light, and is usually only removable by scraping the nail with metal instruments. Shellac is basically a hybrid product, a combination of a gel polish and a traditional nail polish, which is removed by soaking in acetone. But it really depends on the brand of polish you choose, as different brands have different properties. CND Shellac (which has the durability of gel but goes on with the ease of regular polish) and OPI Gel are two of the most popular brands in nail salons right now.
I’ve gotten a few gel manicures over the past few months. Like most women, I like them for their longevity; I had one fancy, two-tone sparkly manicure that lasted a full three weeks, which I absolutely loved. What I didn’t love was taking the polish off, sitting there in the salon with my hands plunged into smelly acetone remover that gave me a headache and made my fingers actually burn. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “This can’t be safe.”
And I was right, at least somewhat. Acetone is extremely drying and can end up causing your nails to thin and break. Camilla Wells, a teacher and writer in Falls Church, Va., had a bad experience with a gel manicure: “It destroyed my nails. I got talked into it and it was way too expensive. My nails are thin to begin with, and it destroyed my nails, made them dry and break.”