Boasting chip-free, smudge-free benefits, gel manicures have steadily gained popularity over the course of the last several years. Recently, however, the popular manicure has received increased scrutiny and severe warnings from doctors, raising fears that the health risks outweigh the benefits.

A gel manicure is a multi-step process. First, a nail technician applies a coat of specially formulated polish. Then, the nails spend time under a harsh UV light. This process is repeated two more times. Many doctors fear the UV lamps used damage the sensitive skin around fingernails, causing sunspots, wrinkles and even increasing your risk for skin cancer..

These UV lamps damage skin cells similar to the way sun beds do. If these machines aren't properly regulated, it's unclear how much UV exposure the hands are actually receiving. In a study conducted in 2009, two middle-aged women developed tumors on their hands following exposure to UV nail lights, according to the Daily Mail.

In addition to increasing the risks for skin cancer, gel manicures have been known to cause nails to peel, break and thin as a result of the chemicals used. It's unclear whether this brittleness is caused by the acetone used to remove them or the gel polish itself but the affects are disturbing and dangerous.

The Daily Mail reached out to a spokeswoman from Creative Nail Designs (CND), the company behind Shellac, a gel polish brand, and the company noted, "UV light exposure from a gel manicure lamp is no more dangerous than sitting under strip lighting (florescent lighting)."

Many experts recommend limiting this treatment to special occasions and applying sunscreen beforehand.

It's also important to be aware of proper nail salon procedures. If your nail salon is doing any of the following, you should be wary of using their services:

  1. Providing services to clients with infected fingers, nails, toenails or feet.
  2. Neglecting to cover or place lid on disinfection containers.
  3. Using products from unlabeled or unmarked containers.
  4. Neglecting to ask the client to wash their hands or wash their feet before performing any nail or pedicure service.

-- guidelines provided by INTA/NMC Consumer Guidelines

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