From reading my posts, you know that I am a fan of gel mani’s, such as CND Shellac (Read CND’s response HERE), Calgel, OPI Axxium Soak-off Nail Lacquer.  As a matter of fact, for my vacation I ended up getting an OPI Axxium Gel Mani in the shade Cajun Shrimp because it was the most practical thing to do since it is low-maintenance and I wouldn’t have to worry about my nails looking a mess due to chipping.



So what’s the point of me writing this post?  Well,  in my March 2012 issue of Good Housekeeping   magazine (page 120), there was an article titled “4 Risks of Gel Manicures”.  This of course comes right before I am just about to get a gel mani this weekend! Don’t you hate that?






In the study Good Housekeeping conducted, 10 products were tested, which are as follows:

Professional Use

CND Shellac

Gelish Soak-off Gel Polish

Jessica Professional Geleration

Le Chat/Nobility Competition Gel

NSI Polish Pro

OPI Axxium Soak-off Gel Lacquer

Orly GelFX

At-home use

Couture Gel Nail Polish

Nutra Nail

Red Carpet Manicure



What are the risks?

1.  They contain skin irritants, such as methacrylates, which can cause skin redness, itching, and/or swelling in some people. 

2. Products contain toxic Chemicals.

Nutra Nail may contain a carcinogen, called BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)

CND Shellac contains methyl pyrrolidone, which may cause reproductive harm, per its packaging. 

3.  Using the UV light to “set” four of these gel manicures introduce you to unnecessary radiation.

Acording to GHK, even though you’re only exposed to the UV light up to 8 minutes each session, cumulative exposure increases your risks just as if you were using a tanning bed.

4.  Soaking off the gel can lead to long-term problems

Since acetone, the product used to soak off the gel is used, has a drying effect on the nails and skin.  Cracking, peeling, or brittle nails as well as chapped skin can occur.

Good Housekeeping suggests, for the above reasons, to stay away of gel manicures. I would love to see a more information on this study, including rebuttals from industry experts.  Calgel, which wasn’t mentioned is something I will consider to continue to get, especially since I do not get them often.

What are your thoughts?  Now, knowing the risks of gel mani’s will you continue to get them?

25 Comments on Who would have thought? Risks of Gel Manicures

  1. Good information to know! I haven't indulged in the Gel Mani craze yet, but I was thinking about it… Not anymore! This is a little scary. Thanks for the info Kim!

    • This information is not accurate. If you go to a good respectable place, it is completely safe. We use LED lamps, which is less UV exposure, even though the exposure you would get through a normal uv light is not dangerous. We also use a skin protectant around the skin and cuticle to protect from the acetone. We also use small cotton pads on the nails and wrap in tin foil to make the process quicker. I think magazine articles like this are ridiculous. Ask a professional, not good housekeeping. The Red Door Spas use these methods I have mentioned, and I would recommend them.

      • I agree. I've gone to several reputable places and received gel manis. Sakura, a very well-known salon is one. Every salon I've gone to has used the technique you've mentioned to soak-off the gel.

  2. If you change your color every few days and you experience chipping and nail splitting, what would you recommend for maintaining nail health?

    • Your nails could be splitting & chipping because you don’t take enough vitamins or proteins… it can also mean your nails are dry… increase your water intake. Use olive oil around your cuticles

  3. I just started with the gel polish over my acrylic nails. It has been one week and no problems. The color is still pristine. The salon has the OPI gelish brand. I am not sure how they will change the color next time since the acetone would harm the acrylics, but I think I will make sure to apply face sun block lotion to my hands if I decide to get it again. (I am 44 and not planning on having anymore children).

  4. As a nail tech for over 20 years, This sadens me to see an attack on or industry simply because retailers don't like advancements in technology that they don't have legal rights to. This is a safe product, although does not need to be in the hands of the public. Somethings are just for professional use.

    • Dry, brittle or splitting nails can be caused by a deficiency in minerals such as iron or zinc. Frequent hand washing, not allowing your nails to “breathe” (breathe meaning to take a break – not in the literal sense poeple) between manicures, illness… many things.
      My recent post Children’s Advil Coupon

        • Do you not think I know that? I do NOT mean breathe in the literal sense. Breathe, in this case means to take a break. Please do not come on my blog because you are bored, and you want to start trouble.

      • I think you need to go somewhere else and nit-pick. The person who commented used the name "Track Giles" as their alias. I have NO control over what name people use to comment. Thanks!

  5. I had an email convo with Doug Shoon, chemist for CND. He has been trying to contact Good Houskeeping for over two weeks regarding this article and they have not returned his calls. Also, it seems strange to me that all of OPI's competitors are listed in the article, butthere isn't a single word about their new GelColor? Being a "new " product won't fly with me since OPI has been teasing nail professionals for at least a year about the release of their own soak off gel color.

  6. I appreciate that you realized this article was not written by experts and invited their replies. Here is a factual report on the lamps. This is based on Scientific Studies. Addressing concern #3.

    I have not read the article in full (Thank you for posting it. I could not get it large enough to read the full article). So I will not address the other points, but the link shared earlier by Nail Raising to Doug Schoons response to Good Housekeeping does address them.
    VIA-Nail Raising—Please check out industry scientists response and how the GHK will be/should be retracting this misinformation.….

    Also I think you used " breathe" in this manner because you know that nails do not actually breathe… but just in case someone reading this does not… I want to be clear ,Your Nails Do Not Breathe,

    Thank you again .
    Lydian Flash : Master Nail Technician

    • Thanks for the links. I do realize nails do not actually breathe .:LOL:. that's why it's in quotations. When I talk about breathing I'm talking about taking a break from applying anything on top of them whether it's acrylics, gel or regular polish.

  7. As a nail professional who uses CND Shellac (which means I can only speak for this), I can assure you that done properly, it is safe. When I say done properly, it is because many nail techs will mix Shellac with other product, which will compromise the product and it's safety. By using only the CND product and light, you are in no harm. The original Shellac formula contained small amounts of methyl pyrrolidone, but it has been taken out of the formula since then. Yes, your nails cure under a UV lamp. No, it's not the same UV lighting as a tanning bed. If that were the case, I would have clients with brown hands and white arms. I would use the lamp for healing my eczema if that was true! As hard as the federal government has come down on the tanning industry, I can assure you that curing your nails in a UV lamp is not the same as a tanning bed. Yes, the acetone involved in soaking off the color does cause a small amount of drying. This is also why it's important to be sure your nail tech is using the proper CND Shellac approved technique. If done with the removal wraps, the skin is hardly touched by the acetone. If your tech is educated and doing his/her job correctly, they are applying Solar Oil at the end of the service and educating their clients on using it daily to maintain the health of both the nails and the surrounding skin. I find it interesting that this article never showed a properly educated nail professional's side. I also do hair, and waxing services. I own my salon. I have said no to many products that could have made me a fortune, but would hurt my clients. I would never use a product without first knowing that it is 100% safe. The reason this product is a professional only product is because of the importance of how it's applied, not because of the chemicals in it. Without training and education, the general public could not get it to last and live up to it's intended use. Some things, you leave to a professional.

  8. Some clarification for all from CND:

    The UV light present in the CND UV Lamp has been proven safe to use. Various studies, including one done by Rapid Precision Testing Laboratories, have compared the lamp to natural sunlight and various indoor tanning lamps on the market. The tests have confirmed that the bulbs used in CND’s UV Nail Lamp are among the safest in use today. Getting regular UV manicures is equivalent to spending an extra 1-2 minutes in daylight.

    Methacrylates have been safely used in nail products for decades. The Cosmetics Ingredient Review has determined Methacrylates safe as used.

    As of August 2011, CND Shellac does not contain the chemical Methyl Pyrrolidone (n-MP). Prior to that, several original CND Shellac color formulations used a raw material that contained trace amounts of n-MP in the solvent. The amount of n-MP in the final formula was below 0.1%, well within safe harbor limits of California’s Prop 65.

    Acetone, which is used to remove CND Shellac, is used in almost all polish removers. Acetone can cause temporary dryness; however, acetone substitutes are less effective and equally as drying. Lightweight oils can be used to offset the temporary dryness.

    Holly L Schippers aka FingerNailFixer

    CND Education Ambassador

  9. For Shame GHK! As a leading scientist who has studied these issues, I can tell you that Holly is correct. Sadly, the GHK article VERY poorly researched. They didn't bother to speak with even one industry scientist nor did they call any of the companies in question before launching this deceptive attack. The article makes numerous errors and clearly the author does not understand the science behind these products. The risks they've outline are grossly exaggerated and amount to nothing more than fear mongering! __I've spoken to them and pointed out their many errors. For example, there is NO risk of reproductive harm and never was! GHK told me they didn't say there was a reproductive risk, but clearly this is what they were wrongly insinuating. Also, my wool sweater can make me itch, but that doesn't make wool dangerous! And, the silly myth that these are like tanning beds has been shown to be false by two independent scientific studies. They fail to mention that like UV nail lamps

  10. That article and this blog really show irresponsible journalism. The original article was written without any consultation with industry analysts, chemists or other scientists and has several basic facts wrong:

    1. Methacrylates are safe and have been use in nail enhancements for over 30 years. Yes, some people may have allergic reactions, especially if they are used improperly, but that does not make them unsafe.
    2. Only a few Shellac colours contained methyl pyrrolidone, but since last year, none have it.
    3. The UV radiation from the lamps is so small as to be inconsequential (and what is "unnecessary" radiation, anyway?). It in no way compares to a tanning bed. This issue has been addressed by leading scientists, but the article and blog make no mention of their findings – which was that the lamps are safe.
    4. Acetone is a relatively safe solvent. It is a powerful defatter which means it can dry out your skin and nails, but that is easily compensated for by using the moisturizing oils that every gel polish line has.

    It really is a shame that this passes for journalism. GHK has already agreed to retract and correct most of the article.

  11. As an Entity Beauty Educator, I can say that we stress that these products should be used by professionals only! We put a lot of money and research making sure that our clients are not harmed, I mean really why would we produce a product that would run or business off? Our Color Couture Gel Enamel is only removed with our Product Remover which contains Lanolin, therefore it keeps the nail and surrounding skin from drying out. Also, we don't had to remove our Product every time or clients come back. After they have gone 21 days, with chip free wear, we gently remove our the shine and cuticle from the new growth and polish over starting with base coat …..up to the top coat. Our Gel Enamel is as easy and as smooth to apply as regular enamels, unlike others gel polished that may be thick. Entity One Color Couture can be cured with a UV lamp but it can also be cured with an LED light, which I use and also helps with salon time…for every one minute you have to cure in a UV Lamp it only takes 10 seconds in a LED LIGHT!!!!!! I have clients that have been using Entity One Color Couture for upto 15 months with no problems or crazy reactions, I have even have had a client have a baby in the meantime, he is a healthy little man. 🙂

  12. I got my first "shellac" manicure in May 2011 and continued every 3 weeks until I realized in August that the polish was starting to curl up and peel back at the tips of some of my nails. I removed the polish myself instead of having it applied again. All of my nails started peeling back in layers and it has taken me until now, the end of February 2012 for my nails to be hard enough to grow out to the tips again. This was particularly disturbing to me because I had been a nail biter for most of my life and the polish made my nails look so pretty and was so durable. It was worth the extra money, but not worth ruining my nails. I worry about the salon girls who work with this every day.

  13. Unfortunately there are a lot of unqualified persons making statements without proper information out there. With the new technological advancements in the beauty industry, we are a couple steps ahead of published articles like this! There are a large number of reasons that “Professional use only” should remain just that way! LED cured gel polish can eliminate the use of UV lamps, and an innovative brand of Entity One Color Couture Gel Enamel, you can rebalance color eliminating harsh soak-off services with plain acetone. As for the “chemicals” in these gel polishes? Getting ANY chemical on the skin can cause irritation or allergic reactions, and EVERYTHING in our world is a chemical. Not to mention, polish on anything but the nail looks horrible, leave it to a professional to safely guide you through one of the industries best inventions!!

  14. Thanks for checking out my blog. Unresponsible of me to post about an article I saw and ask for feedback? Please! You've voiced your opinion about it. Obviously GHK made a bad choice in publishing an article bashing a popular form of nail treatment without doing the research. Me, bringing the article to the attention of my readers is not irresponsible (correct word to use miss). Anyway, thanks for commenting.

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