By foconnell@intracoastalderm.com
June 18, 2013
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Manicures can be beautiful. Pedicures, too! Who doesn’t love to have beautiful nails, especially over the summer months as we celebrate the warm, sunny weather with open-toed shoes.

Unfortunately, manicures and pedicures can pose some health risks that we want our patients to be aware of. First, bacterial, fungal, viral and even rare and difficult to treat atypical mycobacterial infections can be caught from going to nail salons. It is wise to only go to nail salons that appear cleanly. There is nothing wrong with questioning nail salon employees directly about what sterilization methods are used in the salon. Poorly cleaned instruments can of course contribute to transmission of infections. Therefore, nail salon customers may want to consider bringing their own nail care instruments to the appointment with them.  We also recommend that our patients avoid getting their cuticles manipulated or pushed back in any way. The cuticle protects the skin surrounding the nail from infection.  Breaking the cuticle (pushing it back or cutting it) can be a direct path for bacterial and other types of infections to find their way into the nail and surrounding skin. Another important tip is to avoid shaving one’s legs directly before pedicures. Microscopic nicks in the skin are a pathway for entry of infections into the skin. Of course, even with all of these precautions, infections can still be caught in nail salons.

A second major issue we would like to bring up is in specific reference to gel manicures. Gel manicures, which help prevent nails from chipping as quickly as they would with traditional manicures, are currently quite popular. They can be quite pretty, and who doesn’t enjoy a longer lasting manicure without those unsightly chips? However, the light that is used to dry the gel, unbeknownst to many gel manicure fans, is actually UV light. The lengthy dose of UV light used to dry the gel is known to damage skin cells much the same way as tanning beds, Assistant Professor of Dermatology Dr. Chris Adigun of the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology says. “Women who frequently get gel manicures should consider their skin cancer risk because the UV light needed to cure the gel manicure is a risk factor for skin cancer,” she wrote in a recent article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Something to remember, as well, for those of us women who are seeking to keep our skin looking young as long as possible, is that UV radiation leads to skin damage and skin aging. UV radiation not only increases the risk of skin cancer, but it also ages the skin of the hands, leading to unwanted sunspots and thinning of the skin.  Of note, LED lamps used in drying regular nail polish are not a health risk as they do not emit damaging UV radiation. Women who decide to proceed with getting gel manicures despite the health risk should wear sunscreen on their hands to protect the skin from harmful UV rays.

Some physicians advise avoiding pedicures and manicures altogether, which is not unreasonable advice. For those of us who chose to continue obtaining manicures and pedicures, however, do so wisely and with caution. And enjoy your summer! 

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