Leading Australian dermatologists have warned women who regularly have their nails done that they may be unknowingly exposing themselves to health risks – from impaired nail growth to skin cancer.
Nail treatments such as shellac, SNS and even a standard manicure treatment can cause damage to your skin, Dr Natasha Cook of Darlinghurst Dermatology told The New Daily.
Shellac is a type of gel treatment that sets under a UV lamp, while SNS involves dipping each nail into a powder in between several coats of nail polish. Both treatments generally cost between $30 and $50.
“Manicures over-traumatise the cuticles and also cut them off,” Dr Cook said.
“This leads to infection and inflammation of the nail fold area and skin that can last for months, resulting in redness, tenderness and your nails grow irregularly and poorly.
“Shellac can cause damage by thinning the nails, especially the fingernails. It can also cause problems with the nail lifting off the nail bed, leading to pockets of air bubbles and yellow nails, which increase the risk of infection.
“SNS uses a vibrating sandblaster-like tool to take it off, damaging the nail with risks of nail thinning.”
Dr Cook said one of her patient’s nails lifted off during the removal of shellac treatment, creating an air gap that got infected with staphylococcus.
Cancer Council Australia advised consumers to protect their hands from the UV lamps used in salons for gel and shellac, either with fingerless gloves or sunscreen.
The Cancer Council’s Heather Walker said that overexposure to any source of UV radiation can damage skin cells and increase the risk of cancer.
“While we have good evidence of the level of risk from the sun and sources such as solariums, we don’t yet have strong research about the devices used in nail salons,” she told The New Daily.
“Generally, these devices emit low levels of UV radiation and people are exposed for very short periods. However, UV damage adds up over time so protecting your hands is recommended.”
Dermatologist Dr Adam Sheridan said “all” treatments carry a degree of risk.
“Infection is a risk if instruments are not sterilised between clients and when clients repeatedly dip their nails in a shared acrylic dipping system,” he said.
“UV light with shellac may accelerate skin ageing and increase the risk of pigmentation, contributing to skin cancer risk.
“Repeated exposure to acetone may cause dermatitis and make nails brittle, thinner and increase the risk of infection.”
Tips to avoid nail damage
Dr Cook told The New Daily there are a number of ways women can minimise these risks.
These include steering away from shellac or SNS on your fingernails and saving these treatments for toenails, which are thicker.
“Use standard polish that’s easy to remove and won’t damage the nails,” she said.
“Leave the cuticles intact on your hands … they’re there for a very good reason. Choose a professional salon and keep your manicures simple without overdoing it.”
The best thing to do if your nails have been damaged is to give them a break from treatment, rather than immediately re-applying, Dr Cook said.
“If tender or red around the cuticle and nail fold, seek medical help for treatment of potential infection. This may require oral antibiotics and specialised ointments for long periods.”
Dr Sheridan agreed, saying that regular re-application of the nails could impair nail growth.
“Remove artificial nails ASAP if you’re worried or if there are signs of redness, discomfort or inflammation around the nail,” he said.
“If dents, ridges or soft nails are discovered after treatment then you will need to grow out the entire nail to return to natural health.”
The Association of Professional Aestheticians of Australia, and the Hair and Beauty Australia Industry Association both declined The New Daily‘s requests for comment.