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Are Professional Manicures Actually Safe?

Closeup of woman hands getting manicure

Stiletto, coffin, or almond? Matte or glossy? Plain or embellished? When you go to the nail salon, you have many questions to answer. But are these procedures really safe?

Finding reliable information about the safety of professional manicures is hard. Your local nail salon may not offer accurate information, especially if they have shady practices they want to hide. It’s up to you to research manicure safety.

However, we’ve put together this guide to make that task a bit easier. Keep reading to learn whether or not manicures are safe, and how to protect yourself from harm at the nail salon.

The Risks of Professional Manicures

Yes, it is possible to get a safe manicure. But there are some risks you should be aware of before you choose your salon:

  • UV Exposure: Gel or shellac manicures last longer than regular manicures because they’re cured with UV lamps. If you’re highly sensitive to UV rays, it’s best to stay away from gel manicures altogether. Even if you’re not sensitive, you risk UV rays aging your skin (and increasing cancer risk) over time.
  • Nail Damage: Some manicures tend to weaken or damage your nails. Others are safer for nails—unless they’re done improperly. If you get manicures often, you might notice your nails peeling, breaking, or becoming thin. Your nails need moisture to thrive, and nail polish or acrylics cut them off from moisture. Plus, when your natural nail is always covered by a manicure, you may not notice the damage until it becomes severe.
  • Warts: It might sound preposterous, but it’s possible to pick up warts at a nail salon. Plantar warts, in particular, are caused by infections, which you can get at the nail salon through any small break in the skin of your hands. Although warts aren’t a severe health condition, they look and feel unpleasant.
  • Infection: Other infections can be more serious. If bacteria gets into your broken skin at the nail salon, you might end up with a nasty infection. And since your hands are often exposed to dirt and debris, it can be especially hard to keep them clean while you recover.
  • Allergies: Sometimes, you might be allergic to a lotion, polish, glue, or another item your manicurist uses. This can result in rashes, hives, or other uncomfortable symptoms. And if you aren’t sure what products are being used, you won’t know what to stay away from if you have an adverse reaction.

How to Stay Safe at the Salon

These risks might sound scary—but they don’t need to be. Just follow these tips to get a safe manicure every time.

  • Wear Sunscreen: Applying water-resistant sunscreen before your gel nail appointment will keep the UV rays from damaging your skin. Make sure to apply it as close to your appointment time as possible so the protection won’t wear off before the curing process starts.
  • Choose Salons Wisely: To avoid nail damage and unsafe practices, pick a responsible, licensed salon. If the salon doesn’t give a good visual impression (clean and professional), go somewhere else. Find out if they have a state license and read online reviews. Ask to see your manicurist’s license, too, because a licensed tech is more likely to be adequately trained to follow safe practices. Avoid salons that cut your cuticles, scrape polish off with a file, or don’t use fresh tools for each visitor.
  • Bring Your Own Tools: If you want to be extra safe, you can bring your tools and ask the manicurist to use those instead. It is possible for tools to get safely sterilized and reused, but if you don’t trust the salon, bringing your own is a safe bet.
  • Cancel If You Have a Wound: If there’s an open wound on your hands, re-book your appointment for after it heals. Otherwise, the risk of infection is just too high. You should also avoid getting a manicure when you have a rash or any other type of skin irritation.
  • Know What They’re Using: Always know what products are being used on your hands and nails. Ask if you don’t recognize something. That way, if you have an allergic reaction, you’ll know what to avoid in the future.

Professional manicures aren’t inherently unsafe—they just come with some risks that you need to avoid. With these steps, you can get the manicures you love while keeping your nails and hands healthy.  

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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