For my birthday, I went to a local nail salon and had a pedicure, and decided to get a ‘gel manicure.’  These manicures are more expensive but last probably 2x as long as a regular polish manicure.  They use a special type of nail polish and UV lights to ‘seal’ the polish to your nails.  First of all, I regret doing this because once you do it, you have to keep getting the gel manicures or your nails look terrible.  I finally removed the gel myself recently and my nails are so sad looking.  I’ve decided to go polish-free for awhile to let them heal.

But, is there a hidden danger to gel manicures?  I noticed something a couple of weeks ago that wasn’t there before.

Sorry for the poor quality, but I have a new mole on the back of my hand.  Is this mole the result of the UV light my hands have been exposed to from the gel manicures I’ve had?  I don’t know, but I do know that it’s new.  I’m not the first one to raise this question, however!  There was a Washington Post article recently that discussed a small sample (2 women) who had no family history of skin cancer developing non-melanoma skin cancer on their hands after repeated gel manicures.  Naturally, 2 women don’t mean there’s a correlation, but as someone who’s had pre-cancerous moles removed, this new mole is disconcerting, to say the least.

No more gel for me!  What about you – have you had a gel manicure?  Are you concerned about the UV exposure?

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  1. I get gel manicures occasionally (and love them!) but I really never thought about the UV thing! I would never lay in a tanning bed, so why would I stick my hands in a mini one??? Haha. Thanks so much for brining this up – I will definitely put more thought into it before I get another gel manicure! :)

  2. I have never had one, but now I know I never will. Thanks for the heads up!
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  3. Is gel the same thing as Shellac? I’ve had the Shellac and they are not supposed to mess up your natural nails, but when gone, they still aren’t the same. And of course ANY manicure does the UV lights thing. Same with pedicures. Or at least the french ones. I haven’t had a pedicure that wasn’t french probably in at least 8 years! And they always stick my toes under UV too…

    • Em, when you have the gel manicure your hands are under UV for probably 20 minutes thoughout the process. They apply something to your nails, stick it under the UV, do it again, and over and over again.

  4. I always worry about the dangers of getting my nails done. I only get them a couple times a year when I am going somewhere special. :)
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  5. Oh, wow! I hadn’t thought about that before but it doesnt sound far out the! Yikes.
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  6. I rarely get my nails done. I would like to but then I know they will chip or like you said you have to keep going to keep it up. I do get my toes done once in a while.

    I have to admit though that I am not afraid of UV light. I do not go tanning, but I rarely wear sunscreen. And I am fair skinned with many moles. I just think that the sun’s rays are important to stay healthy. Probably not a PC opinion.

    • I definitely agree that we should have regular sun exposure – Vitamin D is good for you! But, it also depends where you live. I’m in Phoenix, where it’s sunny 95% of the time – and that much sun isn’t good! The light they use during this manicure process is the same as a tanning bed – so you’re essentially ‘tanning’ your hands for 30 minutes. Not a fan of that at all!

  7. I have never had a manicure except when I was a teenager and gel manicures were new and had a booth at the state fair where they would do one nail for free to show you how great it was. My pinky nail did look nice and was very strong…for about a week…until the edges got loose and started snagging on everything and looking shabby…and then after about another week, one of those edges caught as I was putting on a sweater and ripped off all the gel plus several layers of my nail. OWWW!!! I would never get a gel manicure again based on that alone, but you have a good point about the UV exposure.

    Chemicals in nail polish are very nasty, too–seep in through your skin, fumes harm your lungs and brain, environmental pollutants…. I painted my own nails for many years, but I quit when I was about 25 and haven’t missed it.
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  8. That is why I am looking online how to remove gel nails because of this incidents and what happen to my friend’s nails.

  9. Admiring the persistence you put into your blog and detailed information you offer.
    It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Excellent read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.
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  10. crystal says:

    If the gels are removed properly, the damage to the natural nail is minimal. Just like any manicure, the remover is drying. That is what you get when you do gel polish as well. The acetone you soak in to do the removal is drying. But a little buffing & cuticle oil, & your nails should be fine ( unless the tech did a poor nail prep & application) also, it is a good idea to massage a small amount of SPF on the hands(avoiding the nails themselves) before having this service, to protect your skin. With anything, there are risks, but if proper precautions are taken, & the service is performed correctly, its quite nice to have beautiful nails that last.

  11. There is a lower cost healthier alternative to the UV gels. It is called Dazzle Dry, the only vegan non-yellowing hypoallergenic nail polish system that dries rock hard in 5 minutes without the use of UV light. Dazzle Dry manicures have been reported to last chip free for 32 days on some individuals therefore they are said to perform like gels. When ready to change your color, Dazzle Dry comes off with regular nail polish remover, just like an ordinary polish. Thus, no soaking and no drying out of the nails. And the product costs like an ordinary polish and just a fraction of the UV gels.

  12. I believe that the mole is not triggered by the gel you were using. I don’t even know if that mole has a time to sprout up but it has done so coinciding the time you were applying the gel. There are reasons behind this. Seeking your dermatologist might give you a proper answer.
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    • Not the gel nails themselves, but when you have gel nails applied your hands spend quite a bit of time under UV lights – the mole was not there before my gel manicures, but popped up after my second one.

  13. For any process involving gels you are not under the light for more than 10 minutes. (10 seconds or less for base, 2 minutes for one polish coat, 2 minutes for second coat, 2 minutes for top)

    Granted they are ultra violet lights and in long-term use can be damaging on your skin. But the wattage of the bulbs is so light it would take a long period of time to produce anything related to it.

    I’ve had clients using the gel products since they originally came out and have never had any weakening or damage to the natural nail beneath from the products nor on their skin.

    The truth is that the majority of problems you get with your nails once you remove gel is the fact that your nail tech has more than likely over-filed your nail pre-application or your nails are naturally unhealthy and is usually due to a lack in vitamins.

    Just a few tips.

    Gel polish is typically changed in the two weeks, but are meant to last 3-4. If you can keep them on that long then do so before changing.

  14. I understand that we can purchase uv free gloves with the finger tips open to protect from the uv light. I have had four gel manicures the last four months. Mine last for a month and I really like them.
    I remove the gel polish at home before I get another manicure. It does talk a long time to remove the polish. I use pure acetone on a cotton ball & place it over the nail, then cover with small pieces of aluminum foil. After about 20 minutes, most of the polish comes off. If there is still polish on the nail, I soak it longer, then very gently scrape anything left on.
    I have had skin cancer removed from my face (because of sun), so will watch for any change in my nails or hands. I will probably still have gel manicures, however, will use SPF 30 plus on my hands and the UV gloves.
    I really like this website.

  15. Bella Nails & Spa says:

    This is the reason why I don’t used UV at my nails salon. We are anti-uv….we only used LED! Safe for the human skin, and dry in 30 second! If you should get a gel manicure you should look for a nails salon that only used LED.

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