Are Nail Lights Really Worth It?

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How amazing do your nails look with a gel manicure? It is hard to imagine getting the same level of perfectionism and long-lasting power with at-home nail polish because you can't keep the nail polish between the lines or they chip easily because we are constantly washing our hands. The benefits of getting a gel manicure are short drying time, glossy finish, and two long-lasting weeks, which is perfect for those going on vacation or a special occasion, per Brides. And there are pages dedicated to manicures and nail art on Instagram that justify getting regular gel manicures as a form of self-care.

Most of us know what gel nail polish is, but how does it work? According to Elite Nails, gel polish is "a UV/LED light-curing material that adheres to our own nails and can be applied with a brush." It is considered easier on the nail than acrylic nails but lasts longer than regular nail polish. It requires you to dry your nails under the UV nail light after every coat to set the polish. It is nice to treat yourself to a chip-free manicure without sitting in front of a fan to let your nails dry worrying about an unfortunate dent.

The long-lasting nail technique has gained much popularity in recent years, but did you know that nail lamps that are used to dry your gel nail polish actually emit UV light?

The UV lamp can age the skin your hands

Gel manicures save us from spending time letting our nail polish dry because they dry almost instantly under the special ultraviolet lamp. But when you know UV light isn't healthy for your skin, how safe is drying your nails under one? Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told Brides, "Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light, even in the form of a nail polish dryer, can increase the risk of the exposed skin to premature aging," since the skin on your hands is thinner than other parts of your body.

What about the at-home lamps we use to dry our gel nails? Dr. Dana Stern, an NYC-based board-certified dermatologist, specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, and surgery of the nail, saod, "Even if it is an LED device (most of the at-home devices are LED and many salons have LED light sources), the light is within the UV spectrum," according to ManiGlovz Manicure Gloves. And UV light is associated with signs of aging such as dark spots and wrinkles, meaning the longer and more often you are exposed to UV lights, the worse it is for your skin. Dr. Stern also shared with the publication that exposing your nails to UV light can lead to thinning of your nails due to the removal process.

Here are some safer alternatives to gel nails

It is not that bad if it is an occasional splurge, but always apply sunscreen to protect your hands from UV gel manicures. You don't need to say goodbye to a good manicure just because of what the UV lamp might do to you. But there are other alternatives to getting equally pretty nails without the long-term effects of UV lamps.

InStyle recommends trying Deborah Lippmann's Gel Lab Set ($45) as a healthier alternative to get gel-like nails at home without the damage of the UV lamp.

If you're worried about accidental chips, Brides recommends trying press-on nails because they are no longer an adolescent treat. The nail market has a variety of press-on nails in many colors, shapes, and embellishments to fit every personality and occasion. They are easy to apply and do not require any drying time. Press-on nails look professional, are cheaper, and won't age the skin on your hands. 

Getting a gel manicure once in a while might be alright but try not to make it a habit due to the risks involved. If you must get a gel manicure, Ashley Wysong, MD, and Chair of the department of dermatology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center recommends investing in fingerless sun-protective gloves from ManiGlovz ($25) or MelodySusie ($10) to keep your hands looking young, per Health.