5 Things To Ask For At The Salon So Your Gel Mani Won't Ruin Your Nails

by Emily Arata

When word of a new beauty technique gets out, a hush falls over women everywhere. We’re waiting for the backlash: the study saying it causes cancer or the investigative report explaining the way it exploits third-world workers.

We once worshiped the tanning bed, only to learn about the dangers of UV light. In urban areas, the $10 manicure seemed like a godsend until a New York Times editorial delved into the slave-like conditions of the manicurists.

But, rest assured, there’s no need to feel guilty about getting your nails done if you go about it in a well-researched, savvy manner that includes checking to make sure your salon pays its employees fairly.

Whether you prefer a slick gel manicure or painting amateur nail art at home, try out a few easy changes to make the process more efficient and safer for your health. You’ll get the confidence of statement nails without the blow to your conscience (or your budget).

You wouldn’t hesitate to switch out pesticide-sprayed produce for its organic equivalent, so why compromise when it comes to the health of your nails?

Go LED, not UV, at the nail salon.

When a 2014 study connected the blue nail-drying lights in salons to a low risk of skin cancer, dozens of Internet articles reported nail fanatics were safe from harm. But the frightening reality is a variety of manufacturers produce the UV lights in salons and they rarely share the same voltage.

On top of melanoma concerns, many dermatologists advise wearing gloves without fingertips or sunscreen under the lamp. The long-term exposure to UV rays adds up to spotting, and prematurely aged skin on the back of your hands is made even worse by the fact it’s among the areas most prone to aging.

Instead of taking whatever light you’re given, do a little Google search to find a salon relying on LED lights for drying power. Not only will they finish drying in less than a minute, but also you’ll be free from worrying about leaving the salon with your grandmother’s crinkly fingers.

Don’t peel polish, soak it off.

It’s easy to hide peeling or brittle nails with polish, but don’t think you’re remedying the original problem. Both regular lacquer and gel treatments block the flow of oxygen to your nail, according to Allure Magazine.

Peeling nail polish is, like popping bubble wrap or snipping split ends, one of the most satisfying pastimes in life. But, if you ever want strong nails, you’ll have to give it up.

When salon technicians scrape off the final layer of your gel manicure, they also rake away the top layers of the nail. Many experts recommend applying hydrating oils and cuticle cream on a regular basis after acrylic nail or polish removal to help your nails heal.

If you peel gel polish with abandon, you risk taking off more than one layer and exposing the nail to nasty bacteria. No one likes fungus nails, so keep your hands off.

Make plans for a polish vacation.

Like any other part of the body, nails need space to breathe. The constant coverage, combined with the nastiness of regular nail polish remover use, isn’t doing them any favors.

Instead of wasting money on manicures that chip right away, give your hands a vacation from the polish brush every few weeks. Think of it "finger rehab," in which you treat your nails to extra iron (think: spinach and citrus smoothies), moisturizers and a good shaping with a gentle nail file.

When you head back to the salon, your nails will be ready to take it like champions.

Use protection. Wrap your… fingers.

Nail wraps are the genius middle ground between practicality and prettiness, and there’s no excuse for not trying them at least once in lieu of polish.

On a practical level, the printed or colored wraps – made from paper, silk or fiberglass – provide extra fortification for nails without the damaging consequences of acrylics. When salon applied, some wraps are even stable enough to provide the wearer a little extra length.

Whether you’d like to wear a personalized image on your nails or just want an easy way to maintain a classic shade of apple red, nail wraps are the wave of the future. They’re cheaper than the average manicure, too: just under $10 per set.

Order customized nails and enjoy the future of the manicure instead of blotting on polish. You deserve it.

Invest in a healthier formula.

In the realm of beauty, a new label has sprung up: polish calling itself "3-free" and "5-free."

The terms are industry jargon for formulas created without dangerous ingredients. 3-free formula doesn't contain the "toxic trio" (toluene, a potential nervous system damager; dibutyl phthalate, which may cause birth defects; or formaldehyde). In addition, 5-free polish also eliminates formaldehyde resin and camphor from the mix.

Nail polish brands like RGB, a popular celebrity pick, and cruelty-free favorite Deborah Lippmann, have sworn off these potentially damaging additives to make manicures a safer habit to pursue.

Plus, you get to trade in old polish for a newer, more intelligent purchase.