Gel nails are not safe. That’s the word on the street.
They cause cancer, and they cause allergies.
What truly is the problem is that many gel nail users (PRO or DIY) have oversimplified the process of gel nails. Oh yeah! You just paint it on like you would nail polish and then put it in a lamp, any lamp, a few times, and that will do. Oh, and you can get a super cheap starter kit on Amazon and a curing unit.
But the process is definitely more involved and sophisticated than this.
If you’ve been doing nails for more than 5 years, then you know that allergies weren’t really a thing then.
And also, if you’ve been in this industry for a few more years than that, then you also know that the “cancer scare” of UV lamps also makes its round every couple of years…
“A new study revealed that… blah, blah, blah“
And my goal today is not to overcomplicate this with all the science… because I’m not a scientist. And I’ve even seen the scientists and other channels talking about this topic trip up on their own statements and having us chase our own tails with these overcomplicated conversations.
And I simply and truly don’t believe that either PRO or DIY should need to get a degree in Chemistry to find responsibly manufactured products. It was not hard to do so 5, 10, or even 20 years ago, so there is definitely no need to overcomplicate things today. Good companies did not just cease to exist at the turn of the century.
Just a few years ago, you had people who were allergic to acrylic nails (presumably, it was the monomer component, not the powder), and that was about it. They actually would then switch over to gel nails to mitigate their issue.
But now gel nails are the boogeyman.
What happened? Did the big-name gel brands that had been dominating the nail scene, i.e., Gelish, CND, Young Nails, etc. Did they go rogue and just start manufacturing irresponsibly and making all of their users allergic?
I don’t think so.
Some blame 2020… Oh, more people just started doing their own nails, and then all the allergies.
While that is true, the reality is that according to online groups of nail techs, outbreaks were happening just pre-2020.
In today’s topic, I will be giving you the BIGGEST tips for the safe use of gel, whether you’re pro or DIY.
Gel Nail Safety Tip #1 Be willing to invest in better quality products from the get-go.
Look if you’re buying gels to paint press-ons; any gel may do. But you’ll have to invest in better quality products for products that risk touching the skin.
A lot of talk has been made about ingredients. We all say get the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for your products. And some companies have even villainized one ingredient that has been safely and responsibly used for years to make gel… HEMA.
But unfortunately, if the products you’re buying are products that lack transparency from the get-go, you’ll not only find it a pulling-teeth scenario when you do ask the distributor for SDS but also once you do obtain them if the distributor themselves does not manufacture the products, AND on top of that, they’re manufactured in questionable manufacturing parts of the world (like China and others), then can you really trust those sheets?… even if you can get them.
I’ve heard, and even myself, have been handed incorrect safety data sheets from products that were new to the market, but everyone was using, and so along with trying, I wanted the safety data sheets.
So for me personally, getting the Safety Data Sheets only makes me feel a tad bit safer (and by the way, some states require PROs to have SDSs of all of the products they use in their salon. ALL.) So get them.
But here’s the thing: finding a good, trustworthy brand is not hard. And time after time, I’ve found that if something costs more, there’s a good reason for it. No smart company goes into business and says, Yeah, we want to be the most expensive brand so that very few people can use us.
So stop next time you find yourself saying that X brand is so expensive. There is a reason to take the time to learn more about the company.
And I get it; you want to trust the brands you use, especially if they fit within your budget. But you want more transparency.
Transparency in a brand comes as easily as showing your face and sharing your story.
Think of the faces of CND, Young Nails, and Kokoist.
If you are familiar with these brands, I bet you know their owners. And does not just knowing their face elicit a feeling of trust? These brands believe in their products, believe in their story, and shamelessly and often put their face out there to represent their products.
Now this is just the first step in trusting a brand.
Obviously, if someone puts their face out there, that’s the very first good step, but it’s not the only step to elicit trustworthiness.
So before we move on to safety reason number two, let’s take a moment to review some guidelines for vetting a nail brand…
#1 Know the owner’s face, or story
Who’s the founder of the brand? And why did they find a need to take on the burden of creating their own nail brand?
#2 Time in business
“How long has this company been in business? Has it been in good standing since its inception if the brand has had a severe health-risk accusation, its”“good standing” clock would restart, for me atleast.”How long has this company been in business? Has it been in good standing since its inception if the brand has had a severe health-risk accusation, its “good standing” clock would restart, for me atleast?
Who manufactures their products? Do they have their own manufacturing team, or are their products privately labeled? If they are privately labeled, do they have the third party sampled for ingredient accuracy and safety?
Once you’ve decided on your brand or two, based on these 3 factors, and have gone on to buy some of their products, now is time to ask for the safety data sheets of what you bought.
Gel Nail Safety Tip #2 Buy your brand’s curing Unit
I’m no longer budging on this. After you have selected to work with a responsibly manufactured brand, your next big purchase is that brand’s curing unit.
Yes, a good curing unit will cost anywhere from $150 to $350, so you may want to weigh this into deciding what brand you will be starting with.
You will be tempted to start with a unit on Amazon while you sort out your brand choice, but I truly believe that all of the issues you’ll be having with your gel nails will stem from buying a “whatever unit”. So you will have to choose a brand’s curing unit quite early.
Now, remember why some curing units may be more expensive than others. Sometimes you’re paying more money for features. I.e. Is the unit cordless, dual wave; custom made etc.
One thing I like about the Kokoist brand of gels is that they offer two curing units. One that is premium (the LeBlanc) because of all of its features, and another that is standard but just as high quality at a much more affordable price (the Infinity). They are about the only company I know that does this. Companies have a hard time stocking just one curing unit, let alone two!
So again, bonus points to Kokoist for doing this.
If you are not willing to invest in the curing unit of your main line for your gel nail services.
Get out of doing gel nails. Your health or that of your clients is simply not worth it.
Your cheapie curing unit may emit a wavelength or use bulbs that wear out, exposing you to unsafe levels of UV.
Or their strength may not be sufficient to cure your gels to their correct hardness, leaving you with half-cured gel nails. And uncured gel is definitely allergy-causing.
If you become allergic to an ingredient in gel nails. You will be allergic for life. Some allergies may be easier to cope with than others. But the assumption is that the allergy will be here to stay.
So if you are not willing to research gel nails as outlined in Safety Tip #1, and you refuse to invest in the curing unit of your main brand… get out of doing gel nails. It is not worth any health issue or lawsuit of an injured client by improperly cured gels. I have heard it happen.
Gel Nail Safety #3 Ventilate your space
Never ever work with chemicals in a non-ventilated area. You need constant airflow in your space. Chemicals, whether they are low or high in volatility, meaning their fumes are floating in the air of your space. If they have nowhere else to go, they will go in you.
You may experience toxic effects like nausea and itchy sore throat. Not worth it.
Ventilation does not have to get tricky or expensive. It is as simple as having a window open or an exhaust fan. Investing in some other mechanism may be worth or required in your building.
You can also improve the air quality in your room with an air purifier.
Gel Nail Safety #4 Leave it to the pros
Ultimately nail enhancements are designed for professional use. And so, if you, as a DIYer, are not willing to invest in good products, please stick to only nail polish and press-ons.
Those are your safest options.
But even the professional industry recognizes that some ambitious DIYers may insist on doing their own nails. And for this reason, their brands are available for purchase in places like Sally’s Beauty Supply (like Gelish) and Amazon (like Young Nails).
You may also be able to find mentors in the nail industry who will show you how to apply gel nails safely, all while also achieving long wear. Because ultimately, if you can give yourself a good set of nails (lasting 3+ weeks), you’re decreasing your exposure to chemicals.
Now I do have a mentorship program via my Master Gel Nails Course. I take you step by step through the exact processes of my most popular salon services, all with the safe use of premium soft gels.
We’re getting ready to open our (virtual) doors for group class enrollment. Find out more or get on the waitlist here.
“Another way” to leave it to the pros”, is to support your local nail tech.“Another way “to leave it to the pros”, is to support your local nail tech.
Let’s add it up real quick:
- Intro (quality) Gel Kit ~$100
- Curing Unit ~$150
- Course to DIY ~$300
- Your time $___
- Peace of mind $___ (priceless)
~$550, and in my experience, it only starts here.
So, now that you see how investing in the materials to do it yourself ACTUALLY costs a lot of money…
Is it really worth leaving or not supporting your local nail tech? To some, it is; to some, it is not, and in my experience, I’ve noticed that a lot of my students start as curious DIYers who eventually go pro. I myself started this way.
Getting our nails done with quality products and technique by a pro IS a luxury, and if you don’t have that budget now, consider these 3 things…
#1 Nail polish
-all the supplies for this will cost you roughly $25 to get started
-customs start at about $40, but they can be used multiple times
This would be the more expensive one, but that would be …
#3 Finding an industry mentor to teach you safe application
-You’ll find some cool videos here on YouTube of what to do or no to do, but you really want an all-encompassing step-by-step course, like what we do inside MGN.
Gel Nail Safety #5 Take all safety precautions
So if you’ve already narrowed down your brands and you’re using the quality curing unit from one of them, here are some additional safety precautions I always take.
Other than the ones we’ve already mentioned, like cure things properly, and keep your area ventilated, here are others:
#1 Keep all products off of the skin
Uncured gel is allergenic. It does not belong on the skin
#2 Apply your gel in thin layers
Curing gel often emits heat. This heat spike on your nails can be severe when you apply the gel in thick layers
#3 Wear gloves
Gloves keep you from exposing yourself to uncured gel, nail dust on your skin, and your client perspiring on you
#4 Wear glasses
This is not ridiculous. Gel dust is finer than most other enhancements, which means that they will not be weighed down by gravity but rather into your breathing zone, including your eyes, and if you’re filing improperly cured gel, those raw particles are now making it to your eyes.
Woo- that was a lot, but I hope you took so much from it and that you see that many oversimplify how technical and prestigious of a service gel nails really is.
Let’s recap today’s 5 biggest tips for the safe use of gel nails:
- Be willing to invest in better-quality products.
- Buy the curing unit for your main brand.
- Have proper ventilation.
- Leave it to the pros, and use nail polish and press-ons.
- Take all safety precautions.
And remember to vet your brands and get a little nosy about why they decided to go through the trouble of bringing their products to market.
Don’t forget, If you would like to learn how to apply premium soft gels responsibly, our MGN Course opens up soon for group class enrollment. Sign up for the waitlist HERE.
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Thank you, and I’ll see you in the next one.
Content written by Paola Ponce
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