Seunga (Jasmine) Han, PharmD Candidate
It’s that time of the year – the time where we get to wear sandals and pretty up our nails! It’s the season for manicures and pedicures. You may be wondering why so many people get them done. Generally, it’s because they are relaxing and make the nails look clean and presentable. In addition to regular manicures and pedicures, different options such as a gel manicure or artificial nails offer additional perks. While they do offer aesthetic benefits, they also come with risks of infection and harm to our nails. In today’s article, we’re going to cover some tips on minimizing these risks.
When Making a Trip to Nail Salon
Do you like to visit a nail salon to get pampered? The next time you visit a salon, try to take the following considerations into account before choosing to get your manicure or pedicure done:1
- Are they experienced? Do they have a certificate or license?
- Are the stations clean?
- Do they clean their hands between clients?
- Are there any dirty tools lying around? How do they clean their tools?
- Do the pedicure foot-baths and filters appear clean? You want to make sure that they are disinfected to limit your risk of an infection.
Home Manicure and Pedicure
Whether it’s due to the cost or time conflict, some of us prefer to do our manicures and pedicures in the comfort of our home. Even then, it’s important to take precautions in order to do them properly.1
- Always moisturize your nails, especially after using nail polish remover since it can be quite drying.
- Avoid cutting or pushing back your cuticles. If you must push them back, do so after a shower or bath.
- Shave your legs after getting a pedicure, not before, to reduce the risk of an infection.
- Always keep your tools clean and disinfected.
- Prevent discolouration by applying an extra layer of base coat. Your nails could become discoloured or yellowed, especially with bright red or orange polishes. If this is the case for you, leave your nails free of nail polish, or apply a different colour, and the nail will return to its normal colour after several weeks.
Gel nails are often preferred over regular nail polish for their long lasting effect, but they can cause your nails to become brittle, peel, and/or crack and even increase your risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging. Therefore, it’s ideal to avoid getting gel polish and use regular nail polish instead. However, we understand that this may not be a realistic or practical option for some individuals. Here are some other ways to minimize the damage to our nails from gel manicures:2
- Use a broad spectrum, water-resistant, SPF 30 sunscreen before gel manicure to prevent skin cancer and premature skin aging.
- Do NOT pick at your gel nail polish. Doing this could damage your nails, so make sure to make an appointment when you are ready to have it removed.
- Take a nail polish holiday where you don’t wear nail polish for 1-2 weeks or longer to allow your nails to repair themselves.
- Moisturize your nails and cuticles to minimize brittleness.
Those of us with shorter nails may prefer artificial nails because they add length, making the fingers look long and slender. Again, these can be very harsh on the nails because of the process that sticks the artificial nails on our natural nails. They file the surface of our natural nails until they feel rough. This thins your natural nails, making them weaker. On top of that, the chemicals used to apply artificial nails can be very irritating to the skin around the nail.
The risks don’t stop here. To remove these artificial nails, you will need to soak them in acetone or file them off. If you want to wear artificial nails for a longer duration, you will need to get touch-ups every 2-3 weeks. As you can see, artificial nails can put a lot of stress on your natural nails. Even with these risks, some people will choose to get them done due to the specific look they provide. If this is the case for you, we suggest reading the following tips to help reduce your risk for nail damage:
- Choose gel nails over artificial nails if possible, and ones that soak off rather than those that must be filed off.
- Choose a nail salon that uses LED light rather than UV light to harden gel nails to reduce UV exposure.
- Try to reserve artificial nails for special occasions.
The Bottom Line
As we always say, “everything in moderation”. This is key when it comes to manicures and pedicures. Try to be diligent when picking a nail salon, consider gel nails over artificial nails, and give your nails a break from nail polish every so often. Taking these small steps will help your nails get a break from damaging chemicals. While it’s tempting to cover up your nail problems with artificial nails, evidence strongly recommends against this practice, especially if you are prone to fungal infections or have brittle nails.1 Lastly, always keep an eye out for changes to your nails or any persistent problem, and seek professional help when you notice these changes.
As always, we hope you took away something valuable from this piece. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article or others, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or at email@example.com with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.
- American Academy of Dermatology: https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/nail-care/manicure-safety
- American Academy of Dermatology: https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/nail-care/manicure-safety/gel-manicures
- American Academy of Dermatology: https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/nail-care/artificial-nails