If you don’t have the patience to grow out your nails naturally, artificial nails will give you long, well-proportioned nails quickly. But could these beautiful nails come at a price to your health? – the side effects can be scary.
As we can see by the success of the artificial nail industry, women are not only willing to shell out big money for gel and acrylic nails, they're also sometimes willing to compromise their health.
As with most things cosmetic, the side effects of artificial nails are something you may want to consider seriously before engaging your manicurist in the art and science of these two severely synthetic nail treatments.
What's the big deal?
Like our skin, nails are porous, absorbing chemicals and compounds right into them. Each time acrylic nails are applied, women are exposed to the chemicals put directly on the nail beds and skin. Acrylic nails contain harmful chemicals that enter your blood stream every time you have your nails done. These chemicals, such as formaldehyde and the resin used to apply acrylic nails, have been linked to cancer. Women who apply acrylic nails on a regular basis can be at risk of significant exposure to these dangerous chemicals.
Also, an artificial and natural nail has a much stronger bond than the one between a real nail and nail bed. If the nail rips from the nail bed, that gap, or space, provides a rich, moist, warm environment for bacteria and fungi (e.g., an infection) to grow. Prolonged time on the nail allows infections to worsen. With acrylics, the opposite – drying out of natural oils – can occur, which can cause damage and splitting. Rigidly adhered acrylics may also lead to serious nail breaks, infection and loss of the natural nail.
Allergic reactions have also been reported with acrylic nails, resulting in serious inflammation and thinning of the beds. The healing time, resulting in pain and sensitivity, can last more than a year.
Food for thought: Some hospitals don't allow employees to wear artificial nails due to the risk of infection to patients. What's even more eye-opening? Several deaths of premature infants in the late '90s were blamed on an acrylic nail infection transmitted by a nurse!
Also beware, some disreputable nail salons are using a poisonous and illegal substance called MMA in their nail adhesives. MMA (Methyl Methacrylate) can cause serious damage to the lungs as well as permanent damage to your natural nails.
MMA is an ingredient sometimes found in liquid monomers used to make artificial nail enhancements. MMA is considered a safe ingredient for dental prostheses but a health hazard in the salon.
Clients must be warned of the risks associated with MMA including severe allergic reactions, permanent loss of sensation in the fingertips, nail damage, deformities and respiratory problems with eye, nose and throat irritation.
The FDA classifies MMA as "a poisonous and deleterious substance" and has deemed it unsuitable for salon use. Even with this knowledge, some salons still use liquid monomers containing MMA.
Dermatologists at the University of Texas are calling for further investigations into the safety of UV nail lamps. The UV nail lamp is most commonly used to cure gel nails but is also used to cure acrylic nails and dry traditional nail polish.
A 48-year-old woman in good health needed repeated surgery to remove several cancers from her right hand after having UV light treatment at nail salons eight times in one year. A second woman, aged 55, also developed a tumour on her right hand after using UV lamps twice a month for 15 years.
In both cases, the tumour involved was a squamous cell carcinoma, a less harmful strain than deadly malignant melanoma. Although they can be removed with surgery, in around four per cent of cases the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
In a report on the two cases, Dr Deborah MacFarlane from the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, said: 'Exposure to UV light is a major risk factor for the development of skin cancer.'
'We know that overexposure to artificial sources of UV radiation, such as sunbeds, can increase the risk of skin cancer - so there is no reason to believe that nail lights won't pose a similar risk.'
I'm sticking with natural!