1. There’s always a risk of a fungal infection (ugh!).
We’re sure the manicurists at your local nail salon are consummate professionals, and that they thoroughly disinfect tools between clients. But fungi are tenacious. They might hide out on your technician’s hands, inside polish brushes, or even on stations themselves. Besides, there’s sort of disinfecting your tools, and then there’s really disinfecting your tools (more on that later). Robert Spalding, a Tennessee Podiatrist who wrote a book called Death by Pedicure, told US News and World Report that up to 75 percent of the nail salons in the United States fail to follow state protocols on disinfection. If that’s accurate, it’s pretty sobering.
2. Overzealous technicians can permanently damage your nail beds.
The worst part of a (mostly) relaxing manicure is when your tech trims your cuticles without your permission. If they go too far, they can damage living skin, causing a wavy, uneven nail bed. The process should be gentle, if you’re okay with it being done at all. Ideally, your nail tech should just gently push your cuticles back with a cuticle stick.
3. Gel manicures may raise your risk of skin cancer and even cause premature aging.
There are lots of advantages to gel manicures. Of course they look great. They also last longer, they’re tougher, and they dry quickly beneath the salon’s UV lamps. But those UV rays may also be doing invisible damage on a cellular level. Dermatologist Chris Adigun said in an American Academy of Dermatology press release that “the UV dose that you receive during a gel manicure is brief, but it’s intense. …Over time, this intense exposure can add up to cause skin damage.”
4. Filing is an art, and not every manicurist has it mastered.
Manicurists are trained to work fast. But if they file your nails quickly, with a rough, sawing motion, they might damage your tips. That could cause splitting, cracks, or peeling further down the line. Make sure your tech files in a single direction, and that they use a clean file with a fine grain.
5. Regular manicures can weaken your nails.
Those UV lamps aren’t the only downside to a sleek gel manicure. The only way to strip your last layer of gel polish is with a caustic acetone remover. Over time, this can weaken nails. Acetone dries out keratin, the rigid protein your nails are made of. Dry keratin tends to peel, become brittle, and ultimately break. Yikes.
6. If your manicurist skips the base coat, you could end up with permanent stains.
Base coats do more than make your colors pop. They also protect your nails and the skin surrounding them from the more powerful dyes in brightly colored polish. If you still decide to go to the salon after all this, it might be worth it to ask for a double base coat. And if your tech tries to skip this first step, it might be time to find a new nail salon.
7. Nail polish remover can make your nails rough and gritty.
We’ve already established that acetone and keratin don’t get along. With repeated exposure, nail polish remover can start to break down the top layer of your fingernails. Eventually, this leads to a rough surface. You won’t notice it after a fresh manicure, but try to go natural, and you’ll feel the difference. Only time—and a moratorium on nail polish remover—will get your nails back to normal. All that’ being said, there’s still a place for nail polish remover, maybe just not where you expected it.
Be choosy about using it on your nails, but being creative (and careful) with remover elsewhere may save you some headaches.
8. It actually takes a lot to properly sanitize manicure tools.
Your tech might pull tools from a fancy UV sanitizing machine, but that may not be enough to actually blast away all the germs. Terri Silacci, nail expert at Sephora, told Today about the risks. “These lights are effective [only] when coupled with proper cleaning of dirt and debris, as well as an approved disinfectant,” Silacci said.
9. You may uncover an allergy you never knew you had.
It’s rare to discover an allergic reaction at the nail salon, but it can happen. After all, manicurists rely on lots of strange chemicals. You might not be exposed to acrylics, nail adhesive, or acetone before taking a trip to the salon. If you’re allergic to any of these substances, you’ll find out the hard way. The fanciest nails in the world aren’t worth all that.
10. Manicures can cost a pretty penny.
A standard manicure tends to run around $20 or $25. But if you really want to go all out and rock your nails like a superstar, start saving today. Gigi Hadid, for instance, once spent $2,000 on a single manicure in eye-catching chrome. Meanwhile, her boyfriend Zayn Malik was wearing a full sleeve of chrome plate mail armor, so her fancy nails got totally upstaged, anyway. Point being: You can save a little—or a lot—if you learn to do your own nails.
11. You shouldn’t get one gel manicure after another, so pick your timing carefully.
Dermatologist Adigun also gave some sage advice to the readers of Teen Vogue: “I always tell my patients to go on a gel honeymoon,” she said. “This break will allow their nails to rehydrate and repair.” If you follow the good doctor’s advice, then, that means you should plan your gel manicures carefully. If you’re going to a wedding next month, now might not be the best time for a trip to the nail salon.
12. Some nail polish is notorious for containing a “toxic trio” of chemicals.
Ask your manicurist if any products involved in their procedure contain DBP, toluene, or formaldehyde. Or, just ask about the “toxic trio.” That term has been around for a while, and most beauty professionals will be familiar with it. Together, these chemicals have been linked to asthma, birth defects, and even cancer, so it’s better not to mess with them. You have more control when you buy your own products or skip the nail polish entirely.
13. Simpler looks are coming back in vogue.
The past few years have been huge for elaborate manicures. The pendulum of fashion is beginning to swing, though. Most of the looks picked by Glamour magazine’s “Best Nail Polish Colors and Trends for Spring 2017” list were monochromatic, for example. That means that cutting-edge nail fashion is easier than ever to pull off at home. We can all breathe a sigh of relief, and get out those cotton balls.
14. Healthy nails are the new French manicure.
You know what looks really nice on fingernails? Fingernails. Lots of women are opting for the natural look these days, with well-sculpted, neat cuts and a shiny, healthy finish. Instead of heading to the nail salon, why not pick up a tube of nourishing cuticle oil? These products contain blends of hydrating natural oils that keep your nails and cuticles bright and beautiful. Plus, there’s less upkeep this way.
15. A bold shade of nail polish might hide a nasty infection.
The problem with picking up a fungal infection from a nail salon is that the very manicure that infected you might also cover up the growing infestation. Discoloration begins beneath the nail, and you might not see it until it’s time to strip your nails for a new look. The gross thing about fungal infections is that they tend to grow. Treating them early is way, way easier, but you can only do that if you know they’re there.
16. The best reason to stop getting your nails done professionally is that it’s way more fun to do them yourself!
Even better, have a girlfriend do them. If you’re worried about painting outside the lines, just slather a little petroleum oil on the skin around your nails. Any excess polish will stick to the gunk. When the polish dries, just wipe your fingertips with tissues. Voila! Perfect nails!