Gel Polish: Safe? Unsafe? Let's take a look!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

There has been a great deal of talk in recent months about whether or not gel manicures are safe. Safe? Unsafe?

I took a look at this issue last year and I wanted to take another look. I was researching this issue a couple months back and looked at more studies, so we'll talk about that. Plus, I had the chance to learn more about gel nail polish from someone who works with this medium five days a week.
First, the research.
According to a December 2012 study by the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the risk of harm is VERY minimal.  The research showed that it would take over 13,000 sessions with a UV lamp and more than 40,000 sessions with an LED lamp to equal the UV dosage received during a single treatment of phototherapy, which is when doctors use UV rays in a medical setting to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis. 
Dr. Jessica Wu, Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at University of Southern California says that one that one phototherapy session has "a very low risk of skin cancer." Again, you would need more than forty THOUSAND sessions under your nail tech's LED lamp to cure your gels to equal that one session of phototherapy. The risk here is SO minimal. You know I am very conservative about beauty products and treatments that may be harmful. I have practically shouted from the roof tops about wearing sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. I have spoken on the dangers of UV rays from tanning beds.
I spoke to licensed Nail Technician Elizabeth West of the Michael Spitale Salon in Rochester, New York to give us the lowdown on gel manicures with her expert point of view. She tells me that "if done carefully and properly, gel polish is not all that different than classic polish. True, it isn't '5 free' like many polishes are going now, but, when applied and removed correctly and with care, gel polish won't damage your natural nails."
Why are gels so popular?
I love anything and everything nail-related just as much as I adore a good mascara.
I love having my nails done. One could say I am a bit nail obsessed. Do you know what I did before I went to the hospital to deliver my boys? My nails. Even though I couldn't see over my belly, I wanted a nice pedicure.
I have so many bottles of 3-free and 5-free healthier nail polishes. I have oodles of Jamberry Nails nail wraps, glitter polishes, lacquer, and even a home gel kit that the lovely folks at Gelish sent for me to try. I had my first gel manicure in December of 2012. I don't get them done frequently, but they are amazing for special occasions!
I have had two different brands of soak off gel polish used on me -- Gelish and Artistic Colour (which is what Michelle Obama has had on her nails). The main appeal is that they are rock hard, shiny, and long wearing. The durability is a huge draw. In fact, they are very chip resistant! You can walk right out of the salon with completely dry nails. We have cold winter in New York and I have put my gloves right on after my gel manicures.
I have gotten full 3 weeks out of my gels. The shortest time of wear was one week, but I think that I may have been rougher on them that normal. I go every 2 weeks these days. My nails were starting to get weak and break again after taking a gel-cation, so I started getting gels again and I wear them with my Jamberry wraps. 
The Soak Off Process
This is where I see horror stories about gels. Some people have reported sitting with their hands in bowls of acetone to remove their nails and then have someone filing down the nails and scraping the remaining color off. Please know that this is NOT the norm and this is not how the process is supposed to be! In fact, West tells us that "there is NO REASON WHATSOEVER that an electric file should EVER touch your natural nail."
Please be careful if this is the removal process for your gels, as it is not the norm.
Each individual nail is covered and wrapped in foil so your skin doesn't get dried out or soaked in acetone. It is a careful process to ensure that your skin is protected. After the 15 minutes, there is no harsh scraping with sharp tools or electric files. It shouldn't be like that. There are usually a couple little polish flecks left that Elizabeth gently removes and she VERY GENTLY uses a buffing block (like most of us have at home) to buff my nails ever so carefully before doing a new color.
I continue to look over my nails carefully and there has been absolutely no damage and my nails actually are in BETTER condition with gel polish.
It is crucial that you find a reputable salon that truly cares about the health and safety of their customers and a highly trained nail tech who doesn't take shortcuts to get you in and out faster.
Curing Comments: UV or LED and what it all means
When you get gel polish, they need to cure. 
To cure your gel polish, LED light is used. Or some salons still use UV.
I know Dr. Oz mentioned recently that he was concerned about UV lights for the curing of gels, but most reputable salons now uses LED lights instead and my nail polish is cured in just 30 seconds. That is all it takes to completely dry the nail color! Placing the nails under the LED lights is super quick, painless, and easy. If the salon happens to still use UV lights, West says that "any good salon still using UV lamps will also provide special gloves that protect all but your nail plates from the UV light."
In fact, friends, you do get what you pay for. If you are going to a strip mall nail salon and paying $15 for your gel manicure, chances are you are not going to get the safest or most hygienic treatment. You should absolutely be given gloves like Elizabeth mentioned and you also need to be proactive and know that you should apply a broad spectrum sunscreen in addition to wearing those UV gloves if you are going to a place that still uses UV light.
The Nitty Gritty
I cannot tell you this is the safest option for nails. The safest option would be never to put any color on your nails. 
There is NO SUCH THING as a completely safe nail polish or nail wrap or nail polish remover. That is just a fact.  Even the most "natural" nail polishes STILL have chemicals. And the nail wraps I love so much that I sell them still are not all-natural, as they use an adhesive that is not 100% natural. We all have choices to make--and getting highlights in my hair and my nails done I suppose are things I am willing to do because of how I feel about having those things done. 
We make trade offs sometimes. I don't wear heels because they aggravate my old break. I can't stand sore feet. Or blisters. Plus, I am clumsy and have been known to get my heel caught in the sidewalk cracks. That's why I only wear them about 5 times a year. On the other hand, it is a trade off many women are willing to make.
While I cannot say, "Go get gel nails--they are completely totally safe and green," I can tell you that you will not be breathing in the odor of nail polish or nail polish remover every couple days anymore. We are talking every couple weeks. As an aside, I have never detected an odor when I've gotten gel nails done. Maybe it is just me, but it is worth mentioning.
I can also tell you that both Gelish and Artistic Colour are BOTH 3-free, which means there is no toluene, formaldehyde or DBP (toxic phthalates). Chic & Green is opposed to harmful chemicals and toxins in your skin care. Truth be told, you should be more worried about what's in that body lotion or lipstick than gel polish. Listen up, friends. I sell nail wraps. I could easily say, "Hey, gels are toxic." But I won't, as research indicates otherwise. Those things are being absorbed through your skin--and those pose the more serious risk to your health. 
Gels at Home?

While I think that pampering trip to the salon to get a manicure is a nice treat, you can now do gels at home.

Gel manicures are no longer  limited to the salon.  Gelish now sells do it yourself products at Sally Beauty Supply.  I had the chance to try the kit out and was quite impressed.  Was it easy right off the bat?  No.  Is there a learning curve? Yes. I realized that when I get gels, it is for the pampering and sheer feeling of relaxation from sitting in the salon. This is a great option, though, for those who really want to do it themselves.
Buying Guide (Items available at Sally Beauty Supply)

Do you get gel manicures? What do you like about them?  Are you worried about gel safety?

Ingredient to Try: Pine Bark

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In the eco-beauty arena, pine bark is appearing in more and more products.  Why?
Pycnogenol, which is the trademarked name for pine bark extract, shows great promise when it comes to anti-aging ingredients in skin care.  With so many up and coming ingredients to slow aging, though, is pine bark extract just another fly by night ingredient?
Not according to Dr. Leslie Baumann, a well-respected dermatologist, author, and  Director of the Baumann Cosmetic and Research Institute in Miami Beach.
Dr. Baumann says, "Finally, an ingredient with a decent amount of research to back up its claims! In particular, research indicates that pycnogenol possesses notable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic capacity and an ability to inhibit pigment formation after UV exposure."
I've tried and tested dozens of skin care products with pine bark and am back to share my top picks:


*RelevĂ© Organic Skincare Bamboo Mist features a proprietary form of bio-extracted pine bark extract called PX3, which is unique to the brand.  Bamboo Mist helps to restore luminosity, tone, and provide a boost of hydration.
Beauty Tip:  Another use I have found is to lightly spray this on to set your makeup. Do this after you apply your setting powder. Step back and spritz!
*Derma E Soothing Eye Gel with Pycnogenol is a bargain at less than $20.  It's affordable, effective and available in many grocery stores. This vegan, paraben free formula is cooling and helps combat puffiness and fine lines.
*Time Balm Grapefruit Antioxidant Day Face Cream contains protective pine bark and other natural antioxidants, while aloe vera soothes the skin. It is free of phthalates, parabens, and synthetic colorants.
*emerginC Scientific Organics Kombucha Cleanser features grape stem cells, sea algae, green & whites teas. This deep cleansing formula helps draw toxins out of the skin and protects as it removes makeup.
*Cellex-C Sensitive Skin Serum is a splurge, but a little goes a long way! this gentle, wrinkle-fighting serum packs a punch when it comes to anti-aging, but without irritating irritated skin.

What's New in Green Beauty?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I thought I'd share some new beauty items that I am enjoying right now!

New {and fabulous} from Jane Iredale

First up, Jane Iredale has a new starter kit! I've long been a Jane Iredale fan and if you're new to the brand, this is a really great way to try their best products before you commit to buying the full sizes.  The new Starter Kit comes in a metallic grey bag and comes with deluxe travel sizes of Amazing Base loose (for a more radiant look) and Pure Pressed Powder (for a more polished, semi-matte look), Pommist facial mist with pomegranate, Smooth Affair Primer, and a makeup brush.

*Gluten free
*Foundations have the Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation. These are the ONLY face bases I will use in the summer, in fact!

Each set has a $77 value and is available for $55.

As an FYI to my local readers, Jane Iredale is now available in Brighton at the Michael Spitale Salon on Monroe Avenue! While you are there shopping for makeup, do treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure with Elizabeth!

Also new--

Jamberry Nails made an appearance once again at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York as part of the Ann Yee Collection's show. As seen in Nail It Magazine, too! What's great is the wraps used in Ann Yee's Fashion Week appearance, Modern Chic, are available right now at Jamberry Nails for the rest of February.

An {buzzworthy new-to-me} bath & shower gel to consider

Since I will not be purchasing more 100% Pure products in the near future, I need a new "staple" in the shower. Enter Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely Shower Gel. I prefer this to another natural body wash I used to use (Nourish), as the consistency of this one is superior.


A portion of the proceeds of this product are donated by NYR to Save the Bees.  What I love about this product:  you only need a dime sized amount for the whole body, has a nice lather without SLS, feels moisturizing, smells SO comforting with a gentle honey-orange scent. The scent comes purely from the natural essential oils, as this is free of artificial fragrances.

The Best of the Reds

Friday, February 7, 2014


On this National Wear Red Day at part of the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign, I've picked my favorite paraben free red lipsticks.

The best of the best are featured above and are C & G tried and tested.

Find them here-

Lorac in True Red -

Red Apple Lipstick in Reddy or Not-

Tarte in Fierce -

Au Naturale in Ruby  - 
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