Traditional nail polish is more or less a thing of the past for many women, thanks to the invention of shellac aka gel polish, a nail polish that hardens in just minutes when exposed to UV light.
Women who once found themselves painting their nails every few days due chipping breathed a sigh of relief from the polish's promise to last up to two weeks without reapplying.
In 2016, the American Academy of Dermatology wrote that the past ten years have seen a surge in popularity of gel manicures given their durability and appearance.
For some, however, the allure of durability has been outweighed by consequences of using the product for too long.
As Valentina Todoroska wrote for Mamamia, the young woman had saved money for years by staying out of the manicurist's chair and doing her nails on her own — until gel polish came along.
“Like many other women, when the new nail technology became available, its positive attributes meant I was well and truly converted.”
For at least three years, Todoroska would visit the nail salon regularly, requesting a shiny new pop of color on both her hands and her feet. Until one day, Todoroska noticed that her nail beds were turning bright red. Then they started to itch:
“Almost instantly they began to itch uncontrollably. I don't think I can adequately describe the level of itch I was dealing with on both my hands and feet. As I continued to have my manicures and pedicures, roughly a day or two after, the itching would get worse and worse, going from bad to excruciating.”
The young woman explained that the itching was so bad she would soak her fingers in toes in Listerine and take a thick bristled brush and furiously scrub her nail beds for relief.
After confirming that her nail salon took all proper measures to sterilize its equipment, Torodoska believed she had developed an allergy to the gel polish, a suspicion her doctor confirmed.
Once she stopped using the product, her itchy, irritated nail bed returned to normal.
Todoroska isn't the only one who has an allergy arise due to the product's use:
The popularity of gel manicures has garnered the attention of health experts for years, many of whom warned against the repeated exposure of nails and hands to the UV light needed to harden the polish formula on top of the nails.
In the article, “Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Gel Manicure,” Seventeen Magazine also cautions readers against the “toxic trio” found in many gel polish formulas which are known carcinogens: toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate.
According to the Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, toluene can also be harmful to unborn children.
Chris G. Adigun, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in nails, wrote for the American Academy of Dermatology that although there are some benefits to gel polish manicures, such as an improvement in the appearance of nails that are damaged due to disease or trauma, there are many risks associated with its application.
According to Dr. Adigun, the UVA rays in curing lamps penetrate the skin and cause premature aging and an increase in skin cancer risk. Research has shown that the UV rays in gel manicure lamps are four times stronger than the UV rays emitted by the sun.
In an interview with NPR, Dr. Zoe Diana Draelos, a consulting professor at the Duke School of Medicine and a dermatologist, said that UV protective eyewear should also be worn.
Dr. Adigun warned that other risks from gel polish use include damage to the nail or separation of the nail bed from the nail plate, which could result from improper curing.
Many gel polish wearers also begin to pick at the polish once it begins to lift from the nail. Professional manicurist Jenna Hipp told Seventeen this can cause water to seep into the nail.
“This can harbor bacteria and possibly cause fungus.”
Dr. Draelos said she advises her patients to never wear gel polish for three months consecutively to allow oxygen that had been previously blocked from reaching the nail through the use of acetone, to become re-established.
Waiting four hours for a non-toxic nail polish to dry doesn't seem like such a bad idea after all.