If you’re a gel-manicure devotee, there is probably very little anyone can say to dissuade you from your favirote nail polish. But if you weren’t blessed with tough-as-nails nails, you are probably curious why every nail application can leave your tips feeling scraggly and paper-thin.
Full disclosure: Scientists aren’t exactly sure why gel manis wreck nails more than regular polishes do. Here is what they do know: With the help of UV light, gel lacquers adhere to the nail beds stronger than traditional versions. This likely isn’t a problem in and of itself. But a gel mani requires a 10-minute — no more, no less — acetone soak to loosen that bond. This is due to the fact that acetone desiccates nails, leaving them brittle and prone to peeling.
What is more is that sometimes, nail technicians or customers who idly peel off their polish during tv marathons — don’t give the acetone a full 10 minutes, and use gritty files or sanders to scrape off the product. These methods cause tremendous, and sometimes irreversible, damage to the nail bed and cuticle matrix. And if your nails are thin to begin with, they are that much more vulnerable. Gel polish should come off easily after soaking — at most, your manicurist should use the gentle prodding of an orange-wood stick.
Both doctors recommend taking gel mani-moons, or weeklong breaks from the nail polish, at least once every eight weeks. This serves two purposes: First, you can make sure there are no signs of infection, onycholysis (separation of the nail from the nail bed), or brown or red bands, which are precursors to tumors. Secondly, you get a chance to rehydrate and repair nails. Smooth on a creamy moisturizer loaded with hydrators like dimethicone or petrolatum, and douse cuticles with quenching oils, like Dermelect Revital-Oil. A nutrient-rich basecoat, like Dermelect Launchpad, can also help rebuild any of the compromised structure of your nail bed.
Bottom line: Gel manicures are convenient, long-lasting, and chic. But they can also dry the hell out of your nails. And because pretty nails are also healthy nails, taking a break once in a while is definitely worth considering.