Nail tech painting red gel polish

Are Gel Nails Bad for You?

Nail gel is one of the hottest manicure techniques around and has been for decades. However, many people wonder if gel polish is actually safe to use on your nails… is gel actually bad for your natural nails?

What is Gel Nail Polish?

Before we get to answering the question, you must understand what gel is and how it affects the nail.

Gel polish is resin-based, which is why the smell is much less mild than traditional nail lacquer. This resin is made up of acrylic monomers and oligomers that, once exposed to the proper UV or LED light, will quickly harden into the infamous hard gel coating that we all know and love.

Pigments are added to the resin base for a smooth, opaque color. Glitter or other additives are then poured into the mixture and piped into little nail polish bottles to be sold.

It’s easy to distinguish high-quality gels from lower-quality ones. Cheap nail polish will often separate on the nail to the edges and leave the middle without color; this happens when not enough pigment is used in the formulation of the polish. High-quality polishes will only need up to two layers of polish; any more than that, and you will be left with an unsightly tower of polish on your nails.

How Does Gel Cure?

If the polish is exposed to UV rays, the polymerization process between the molecules in the gel begins, and the molecules will quickly bond together. That’s why you could even cure your gel polish manicure by sitting in the sun, although it does take a while. A UV nail lamp cures the polish in 30-60 seconds with super direct UV light.

Because there is such a high level of UV rays in nail lamps, it’s important to protect your skin with a fingerless glove or sunscreen.

Why Do People Think That Gel is Bad?

Damaged nail beds

There is often a notion that gel polish damages the natural nail bed. Depending on the type of gel used and the quality, there can be some harmful additives in the polish that will dry out the nail and cause it to break easily. Because of this, many people think that all gel polishes will have the same effect.

Can I Pick Gel Polish Off My Nail?

After some time of wearing your gel manicure, you might notice the edges of the polish beginning to lift up. This is normal, and it means that it’s time to remove the polish. You might be tempted to peel off the gel by hand, but after you pick off the gel polish on your nails, you’ll probably notice that your nail beds are flaky and dry. However, this isn’t because of the gel polish; it’s because you picked the gel, which has been cured to your nail beds, off, removing the top layer(s) of your nails.

No, do NOT pick off gel polish!

Is Gel Polish Actually Bad for Your Nails?

The short answer is no, gel is not bad for your nails. However, using sketchy and cheap gel polishes could potentially damage your nails as those companies often skimp out on the proper formulations. Whether you’re going to DIY or go to the salon for a gel manicure, be sure that a reputable brand is being used.

Most of the damage associated with gel polish is actually due to the before prep or the removal process of the nails.

Nail preparation is one of the most important steps to prevent damage to your natural nails. You can find out more on our blog on nail prep. Without proper nail prep, your nails are sure to become brittle and dry.

The most common cause of nail dryness after a gel manicure is due to the removal process. Gel needs to be removed with acetone, which is very drying to the skin and nails. Picking off the polish, as explained above, will also cause your nails to become frail.

If you’re going to the salon to get your nails done, be sure to go to a well-rated nail tech and avoid places that just give you “the ick.” Trust your gut! If your nail artist is doing something that you don’t like, don’t be afraid to tell them, or leave if you have to.

Gel Isn’t the Best, Though...

Gel polish, although fun, isn’t the best manicure system; Fairy Glamor dip powder is! Be sure to view our complete collection with tons of fun and easy-to-use colors.


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