How Safe Are Your Weekly Manicures?

Rachel Adler

As we’re all basically drowning in this nail craze, it’s good to take a step back and think about what we are actually doing to our bodies. I had a friend in high school that got a fungal infection after we went and got manicures at a salon — she had chosen to get gel tips and they left space under the nail letting bacteria grow. Luckily I had gone with just a regular manicure and didn’t have to deal with an infection, but I always think back to this time when I’m trying out new salons, although this obviously doesn’t stop me in the least from experimenting with my nails – but should it?

The Washington Post interviewed dermatologist Richard Scher about what damage we could be causing to our nails by continuously getting mani’s and pedi’s week after week. Scher said, “In general, today’s nail cosmetics and salons are quite safe. However, there is a small risk of adverse effects that are not incredibly common but are something people should be aware of.”

He mentioned that you can obviously have an allergic reaction to the chemicals (such as formaldehyde or acetone) that are found in nail products. Plus, although polishes say they are “toxic free” there has been news lately saying that some actually do contain toxic chemicals. Scher also mentioned that with gel manicures, the UV light can cause skin damage, and since they are removed by acetone, this is also very damaging.

As for fungal problems (which we all love discussing) it’s good to let your nails breathe every now and then. Although most of us go from one manicure to the next, skipping a week and letting them “air out” is healthier for the nails. According to podiatrist Howard Osterman, the chemicals in nail polish can eat away at the top of the nails, sometimes changing the color of the nail (although this is not always a sign of a medical issue). “Fungus grows in dark, moist environments, so anything that doesn’t let air dry it out [such as nail polish’ can allow fungus to fulminate underneath,” he explained to the Washington Post.

It looks like I’ll be giving my nails some time to breathe this summer, lesson learned!

[Washington Post] Image via Istock