Is a no-chip manicure bad for your health?

Is a no-chip manicure bad for your health?

No-chip manicures have swiftly risen to fame, offering women that long-lasting polish they’ve always wanted. A manicure that dries quickly and can last at least two to three weeks? What’s not to love? However, as more women line up for this convenient and lasting service, doctors are worried about the health implications.

No-chip manicures involve a gel-based nail polish. The process includes a base coat, two coats of polish and a sealer, which is applied and then cured to the nail under ultraviolet (UV) lights. When it’s time to remove the polish, the manicurist wraps acetone-soaked pads around the nail for 10 to 40 minutes or more, depending on the brand and number of coats of polish applied.

The use of UV light is the first concern because it is the same type of light used in tanning beds, which has proven to increase the risk of skin cancer. Although the exposure is short, frequent no-chip manicures may increase the danger for common types of skin cancer or melanoma of the nail bed, which can be more difficult to treat.

Another concern is the process to remove the nail polish. Acetone, the chemical soaked on the nail for removal, is very drying, and can leave the nail thinner, causing it to become brittle making the nail bed more susceptible to infections and fungus. A manicurist could also leave the acetone on for too little time, and then try to scrape off the rest of the polish. This can seriously damage the nail, and in severe cases can cause the nail to fall off.

“The key is moderation. Instead of having a no-chip manicure every two weeks, get them less frequently to allow your nails to rehydrate,” says Dr. Melinda Einfalt, an internist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital.

Dr. Einfalt suggests that if you choose no-chip manicures, be sure to take some precautions including:

  • Apply sunscreen on your hands before the appointment.
  • Use a pair of gloves with the fingertips cut off to limit UV exposure.
  • Massage a moisturizer-like petroleum jelly on to the nail combat dryness.

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  1. Julie Nakis

    I agree with taking breaks in between no-chip manicures. I was getting no-chips done for about six months straight before I decided to take a break and have them removed. I realized that my nails were very damaged and weak once I had a good look at my unpolished nails. It took about two months for the nails to look healthy again.

    • Same here! My nails were never the same, though. It’s been 2 years, and some of my nails are still thin and weak. I only get traditional manicures now.

  2. This use of UV on manicures caught my attentio lately. I used to have my salon appointments every week but now, because of the cancer scare, I am having it once a month instead. Thanks for this article.

  3. Licensed nail tech here and I agree this service is not healthy. Weigh the benefits with the risk, because personally, I don’t think a “no-chip” manicure is worth it so long as you have a nail tech who actually knows what they’re doing. Soaking one’s skin, cuticles and nails in all that acetone is horrible, and even though a manicurist will have you wash afterward, and typically apply cuticle oil to try and rehydrate, after a 30-minute soak in acetone, burning and eating its way through the “shellac”, what on earth does one think has happened to their skin and cuticles surrounding the nail plate? If a natural nail plate has been cared for and prepared properly and a client’s home routine is manicure considerate then there is no reason (other than perhaps medication, illness or hormone imbalance) for a well-painted (with traditional, quality polish) nail plate to chip. As for the recommendation to use Vaseline, I am assuming the Doctor intends for the Vaseline to be applied prior to the soak so as to create a barrier between the acetone and the skin. So long as the technician doesn’t get the Vaseline all over the shellac, (which Vaseline spreads from body heat) preventing the acetone from softening the product, thereby creating more opportunity for aggressive scraping, I agree with the suggestion. And any manicurist worth her salt will always apply sunscreen after scrubbing and hydrating her client’s hands regardless of whatever polish option she chooses. On a side, I’d like to see clients demanding new files and buffers with every treatment and as for foot baths; those are supposed to be drained, scrubbed, dried and soaked for a minimum of 10 minutes with properly measured concentrate of a hospital grade disinfectant. If you don’t see your nail techs doing this and you’re allowing them to reuse files and buffers on your nail plates, then you are exposing yourself to spores and funk of unimaginable grossness. A new, quality file costs between .50 and .95 cents. A new buffer, the same. Tell your tech you will gladly pay an extra $1-$2 dollars to secure your safety! And as for any nail techs reading this, you know better!

  4. Acetone soaking? ‘Cancer in a can’ is what painters call it, I use it sparingly in my work.
    I ‘knew’ people who used it too often…

  5. These “risks” are overblown – as well as a 20/20 program that frequently re-airs on manicures.

    I’ve had acrylic nails, along with this type of manicure, for almost 20 years. I don’t have skin cancer, have NEVER had a case of nail fungus or other ill effects.

    Acetone is also found in nail polish removers. Those have been on the market for more than 50 years. Have you heard of an epidemic of finger cancer due to nail polish remover? NO.

    Somebody wanted to get a story printed. Period. You’ll be fine if you FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS carefully, or use a state-licensed salon. The nail techs’ licenses are on the wall, as well as their health department ranking. READ IT.

    • My husband works in a boat manufacturing plant (fiberglass) that uses acetone to clean the equipment. He read the MSDS sheets on the acetone and it was scarey to say the least. Not to mention how flammable the stuff is.

  6. One reason I started using, then became consultant for, Jamberry nails was that they do not contain all the harsh chemicals of your average nail polish. You apply them with heat from a hair dryer or mini-heater and they last up to 2 weeks on fingers and 6 weeks on toes. In addition to our vinyl nail wraps, we have just launched a line of long lasting, chip resistant nail lacquers that are 5-free, meaning they do not contain Toluene, Formaldehyde, DBP, Camphor or Formaldehyde Resin. So take a look at my website or contact me for a free sample 🙂

  7. I started with no chip nail polish on fingers in September and in December my nails started breaking off. Had the polish removed and took a good look at my nails. I could see the file marks from where the nail tech used a nail file to remove the polish. It’s going to take months for my nails to grow out and stop breaking. Watch the nail tech and do not allow her to file off the no chip polish!!!!!

  8. I would love to have some gel nails for my wife. I think it would be nice to have durable nails for my wife. I think it would be nice to have nails that will last longer than not.

  9. Doris Barnett-King May 30, 2019 at 5:12 am · Reply

    I have always had long, strong beautiful nails, but since I have been using the no chip nails (over a period of years), they are weak and bend easily. Sometimes, my nails are sensitive to the heat of the
    UV machine. Also, I have to tell the tech not to file the nail so hard. Recently, I had a black spot under the nail. Going to the doctor to check it out. I will now go back to the traditional manicure.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.