Here's Why Your Gel Manicure Hurts When Curing Under The UV Lamp (And How To Avoid It)

Gel nails have been all the rage for quite some time now. What started as an application technique has evolved to encompass a plethora of styles and trends that have inspired people all over the world to put their own unique spin on gel nails. We've seen everything from beautiful blooming gel nails to trippy liquid molten gel nails.

Once you begin scrolling through TikTok for inspiration, it's hard to stop because of how mesmerizing these designs are. Sometimes, the only way to quit is to get your butt to the salon. So, you select the style you want, book your nail appointment, and everything seems to be going well until you get your hands under the UV light to cure.

Almost instantaneously, you start to get that uncomfortable tingling or burning sensation that only seems to intensify as time goes by. You tell yourself it'll be over before you know it, or you might even be able to convince yourself it's all part of the process. Maybe it's supposed to hurt to be effective? But the truth is that although the burning sensation is caused by a natural chemical reaction, you can still do a couple of things to counter it.

Why your gel manicure burns under the UV lamp

To understand how to deal with the sensation, you first need to know what causes it. The technical term for the burning you feel when curing your gel manicure is heat spike. Jim McConnell, president of the gel manufacturer Light Elegance, explained the science to Nails magazine: "The heat spike is a result of chemical bonds being formed during the curing process; this is called an exothermic reaction. Every time a bond is formed, heat is given off during the curing process."

He added that you're more likely to feel the sensation with harder gel nails than soak-off ones because the reaction is more intense in the harder gels. Doug Schoon, a world-leading nail expert, further clarified to Nails magazine that some tingling is to be expected because of the chemical reaction that takes place with every adhesive and nail enhancement product as they harden.

But feeling too much heat on your nails can indicate problems with the initial steps in the manicure (more on that later), or that the heat isn't being released at an even pace but in short bursts, which doesn't allow it to dissipate enough before the next eruption occurs. 

What you can do to reduce the sensation

Since the problem arises under the UV lamp, you might want to chat with your manicurist to see if they can adjust the settings on the device. Alternatively, ask them to apply the gel in thinner coats because the thicker it is, the more heat is generated, and the more you feel the burn, as Paul Bryson, a principal scientist at OPI, informed Nail Pro. Some salons might even carry specially formulated gels that don't burn under the UV lamp.

The sensation could also be attributed to over-filing, which can cause your nail beds to feel more sensitive to the heat. Likewise, Yvette Holt, an international educator at LeChat, advised Nail Pro: "I also tell my clients that if they do experience any heat to pull their hand out of the light and push down on the top of the lamp with their fingertips. This will relieve the burning sensation and they can then go ahead and put their hands back in the light." 

Tati, AKA The Natural Nail Guru, takes a similar approach. In a YouTube video, she explained how she tempers her clients' nails to the heat by asking them to keep them under the UV lamp for a second or two before removing them, and then repeating the process until they're accustomed to the heat. Simply put, there's no reason to fear your next nail appointment. If you're uncomfortable, speak up, because there are definitely ways to circumvent it.