The Risks of Gel Manicures

The past decade has seen a surge in the popularity of gel manicures, which are valued for their appearance and durability. There are some risks associated with these manicures, however, including skin damage from the ultraviolet light used during the curing process. If a gel manicure is performed properly with UV protection, consumers can enjoy the benefits without experiencing negative effects.

Information provided by board-certified dermatologist Chris G. Adigun, MD, FAAD, who specializes in nails at her private practice in Chapel Hill, N.C.


Gel manicures have been around for a long time, Adigun says, but they have become more popular over the last 10 years, thanks to the development of polish formulas that are easier to apply and remove. Today, she says, a gel manicure can be performed in nearly the same amount of time as a traditional manicure — with better results.

When applied properly, gel polish won’t chip in a few days like traditional nail polish does, Adigun says. As a result, she says, a gel manicure provides the longevity and sturdiness of artificial nails without the upkeep or time commitment. “Durability is the No. 1 benefit of a gel manicure,” she says. “Plus, no other manicure has the high shine that you get with a gel.”

A gel manicure can improve the appearance of anyone’s nails, Adigun says, but the attractive results may be especially beneficial to those whose nails are deformed or discolored because of disease or trauma. Regular nail polish may not adhere properly to a damaged nail or provide enough coverage to mask discoloration, she says, but a gel polish can do both, which makes gel manicures a good option for many patients with nail disorders. “Nails are very visible, so disfigured or discolored nails can be really embarrassing for patients, making it difficult for them to work and socialize,” Adigun says. “For many patients, a gel manicure can be life-changing.”


Despite their benefits, gel manicures are not for everyone. According to Adigun, weak or brittle nails may not be able to withstand a gel manicure, particularly the acetone used during the removal process. Because a UV lamp is required to harden gel polish and bind it to the nail, she says, gel manicures are not appropriate for people who are highly sensitive to UV light; UV sensitivity may be increased by genetic factors, certain medical conditions, and the use of some medications and supplements.