Applying gel polish to your nails is simple: buff the nails and cuticles, then apply a gel-like solution that hardens to form the polish. After the nails are polished and shaped to perfection, the session is finished off by drying the nails in a UV lamp. 

This lamp 

[Source: Javier Sánchez Mingorance]

Seems simple and safe, right? Not really. It turns out that the UV (or ultraviolet) lamp produces UV radiation — the same type that the sun produces — and repeated exposure to it can damage your skin and even lead to skin cancer.

Does that mean you should abandon gel polish forever? You can, but you can also use it safely instead. These tips will help.

Avoid the UV light entirely

Use a non-UV gel polish that doesn’t require the lamp to dry off. If this isn’t available, you can also dip your freshly painted nails in an ice bath for about five minutes, then let them air dry. Another option is to use a quick-drying nail polish spray.

Or reduce the amount of time spent in it 

The shorter your exposure to UV rays, the less risky the exposure. Try to stick to 5-10 minutes under the lamps. This also depends on the particular lamp brand and the level of radiation it gives off. You can ask your manicurist to be sure.

Don’t be shy to pack up and leave when necessary.

Invest in UV-absorbing gloves 

These are dark gloves that only expose the fingertips. With them, you can ensure your skin is safe from radiation while doing as many gel polishes as your heart desires.

Image: Manisafe

Wear sunscreen

Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, with an SPF of 15 or higher, on your hands before every nail session will significantly reduce your exposure to the lamps’ UV rays.

Image: Greatist

Only soak your fingertips

When taking your nails off, you’ll need to use a remover solution, and it contains acetone. Repeated contact can cause your skin to become dry, irritated and cracked. You want to make sure only the fingertips with gel get in contact with this chemical, to prevent long-term skin damage.

Rehydrate your nails

Be intentional about moisturising your nails and cuticles several times daily. This will minimise brittleness and help prevent nail damage.

Let your nails breathe

Sometimes, swap your beloved gel polish for traditional nail polish to give your fingernails time to breathe. You know what they say about too much of everything being bad for everyone.

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