If SPF Isn't Part Of Your Nail Care Routine, You're Doing It Wrong

Having and maintaining good-looking fingernails is important in more ways than one. You might think nail care is mostly done for aesthetic reasons, but that could not be further from the truth.

More often than not, the importance of nail health has been underestimated and disregarded. But in fact, bad nail hygiene can lead to infections and other issues, so you might want to rethink not getting that manicure on Sunday. Having clean, vibrant nails doesn't hurt your dating chances, either.


Nail care isn't exactly a brand-new concept. Per The Guardian, Egyptian mummies dating to 5,000 B.C. have been discovered with gilded nails. But modern nail care is much more advanced than it was a few thousand years ago, and while it's more convenient, it might also cause unnecessary health problems if you don't take certain precautions.

Gel manicures are a revolutionary form of nail care that became popular in the mid-2000s. They use a gel-based polish that stays on without chipping for much longer than regular nail polish (two to four weeks). But this has a catch. The gel nail polish has to be hardened under an LED or UV light after being applied to your nails.

Why is that bad?

Good question. Prolonged exposure to UV rays has long been associated with negative effects on humans. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, unprotected and prolonged exposure to UV rays damages the DNA in skin cells, which can cause mutations that can lead to skin cancer and premature aging.


After the gel-based polish is applied, the manicurist places your hand under a UV or LED light for the drying or hardening of the polish to occur, which might not be the safest thing for your skin and nails.

Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told InStyle, "The ultraviolet light emitted from these dryers is actually much stronger than what you would get from sun exposure."

Does this mean you should avoid these at all costs? Not at all. There's just one simple precaution you should take for protection before a gel mani: a little something called SPF.

Sunscreen? That's it?

Yes, that's right — sunscreen. It can save lives. Generously applying sunscreen on your hands before your nail salon appointment is very important. Since repeated exposure to UV rays also can increase the risks to your health, also consider getting your gel manicures less often.


Shari Marchbein, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, advised, "If you go more frequently, put on sunscreen and wear gloves" (via Teen Vogue). She also recommended you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30.

Sunscreen plays a big role in blocking UV rays from getting absorbed by the skin. Even though it can't block 100% of UV rays, it still gives you a certain level of protection from them. So don't forget to load up on your sunscreen supplies the next time you go grocery shopping. You can also consider this a friendly reminder to never skimp out on sunscreen. Treat yourself and get a good kind. You deserve it.

Be responsible

If you don't practice being UV-smart when doing your nail care, you are putting yourself at risk. We don't ask you to swear off gel manicures completely. Just consider them a rare luxury to treat yourself with. They make your nails look brilliant while letting you enjoy them chip- and crack-free for much longer than regular nail polish, giving you just the right confidence boost you need to ace anything and everything you do.


You just have to be smart and diligent about getting them. If you do decide to get one, put a generous coating of sunscreen on your hands beforehand. And, if you can get your hands on them, wear gloves too. Don't forget to reapply the sunscreen after washing your hands or getting your nails soaked.

So, yes, you can have gorgeous nails minus the annoyance of chipping and cracking, at minimal risk. Do yourself a favor and incorporate SPF into your nail care routine. You'll thank yourself one day.