Busting the Gelish myth

28 October 2014

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I felt completely satisfied with my nail technician highlighting my hands with French tips – until she pulled out a curing lamp.

When I took the salon owner’s advice and booked a Gelish manicure instead of standard polish, I’d forgotten lamps are used to set the gel product, promised to last weeks without chipping.

As I put my hands into the hooded contraption’s purple rays, rumours about UV nail lamps causing skin cancers and premature aging flooded my mind.

Whether it was a physical or mental sensation, I felt the tingle in my fingertips and my nerves increased steadily each time I had to set another coat.

A study by JAMA Dermatology conducted in 2009 suggests exposure to UV nail lamps is a “risk factor” for the development of skin cancer, but that findings “warranted further investigation”.

Credit LED Nail Lamps flickr led-naillamps

Researchers looked at two “healthy, middle-aged women” with little to moderate recreational UV exposure who developed nonmelanoma cancers on their hands after regular nail treatments.

One woman had a history 15 years of bi-monthly acrylic manicures where lights are used in similar way as with Gelish to set the product, the other just eight salon visit in the preceding year.

However, more recent research headed by Dr Robert Syre, co-inventor of the SPF rating system for sunscreens, and Dr John Dowdy for The Professional Beauty Assosiation’s Nail Manufacturers’ Council on Safety, concluded polish-curing UV and LED lamps exceeded safety expectations and standards.

“Researchers found that UV exposure is so low that a person could put her hands under a nail lamp for 25 minutes a day without exceeding the internationally accepted safe limits for daily workplace UV exposure,” study results read.

“The risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer was 11-46 times lower than the risks of being exposed to noonday natural sunlight. … Therefore, it is highly improbable that any salon customer, no matter the level of nail lamp use, will exceed safe levels of UV exposure.”

Sally Dixon, owner of tanning and beauty salon Bronzing Butterfly in Diamond Creek, is confident of the benefits of Gelish manicure over standard polish.

“It’s designed well, it’s really healthy for the nail,” Dixon tells upstart.

“As long as it’s removed properly, there’s no damage to the natural nail at all.”

The salon uses Gelish-branded LED curing lamps which, Dixon says, are safer and easier to maintain than UV alternatives.

“We can tell our clients we’ve got paperwork to prove how good our lamps are.”

Standard curing times at Bronzing Butterfly is ten seconds under the lamp for base and top coats and 30 seconds per colour coat, the number of which will vary depending on the desired design.

Dixon says she recommends Gelish manicures to clients, but that the product is so good, “it just sells itself”.

“It dries straight away, it’s good for the natural nail,” she says.

“It lasts for up to three weeks and it doesn’t chip, as well, like your normal polish does.”

Owner of Essentially You Body and Soul Professional Beauty Therapy in Hurstbridge, Callie Bramich, says she doesn’t believe Gelish is the best product on the market.

“[Gelish is] a gel polish, so it goes on like a polish but it’s cured like a gel and wears like a gel, but it still can damage the natural nail.”

Her salon offers Shellac manicures as an alternative to standard polish, which she says she prefers because of the company which manufactures the product.

CND were one of the formulators of acrylic and gel in the US. They’re basically the front-runner when it comes to these products,” says Bramich.

She says Shellac was the first product on the market to have the ease of application afforded by regular polish, but with the properties of a cured gel polish.

“The difference with our product is that there are no carcinogens, which means there’re no cancer causing chemicals in our product, the Shellac, where Gelish does have carcinogens in it.”

It must be said – this writer could not find any evidence of either product containing carcinogenic chemicals, though this beauty blog claims Nutra Nail, which can be bought from pharmacies and supermarkets in the US, may do so.

However, if your concern is the time your fingers will spend under a lamp, Bramich says Shellac curing time for colour and top coats are four times that used at Bronzing Butterfly for Gelish.

So if a shiny, chip-free manicure is a priority of yours and you are worried about what damage to your hands and nails, talk to your nail technician and get all of your questions answered before your book a treatment.

Since its unlikely regular salon sessions will lead to skin cancer, your biggest worry is which nail colour will match your outfit for the weekend.


Rikki-Lee Burley
Rikki-Lee Burley is a second-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can read more of her work on her blog and follow her on Twitter: @RikkiLeeBurley.

Story image:  LED Nail Lamps flickr/led-naillamps

Feature image: Flickr