Getting a gel manicure is nice when you want to look down and see smooth, beautifully polished nails in the midst of all your duties. It’s also one of the most durable options if you’re a new mama and can’t keep your hands out of the sink, washing away any germs while handling your baby. But is it safe to get gel nails while you’re breastfeeding?
When considering getting a gel manicure, consider these three factors: polish ingredients, remover ingredients, and salon ventilation. “Prior to using gel manicures, it’s important to consider the ingredients within both the gel nail product and the solvents utilized to remove them,” says Dr. Kecia Gaither, OB-GYN. She goes on to say, “It’s equally important to consider the ventilation in whatever shop you are receiving the service.”
What is a gel manicure?
A gel manicure is when your nails are covered with a gel-based polish, then placed under a UV light to help the polish cure (dry quickly). Gel polish was first introduced in the ‘80s but reappeared in the ‘90s (after being pulled) with a better formula and more stable drying process.
Gel nails became really popular because of how fast they dry, and the hardening step keeps them from chipping like standard polish, which is usually within the first couple of days — that’s if you don’t nick them while grabbing your keys to leave the nail salon.
The curing required by gel manicures means the polish cannot be removed as easily as regular polish. In the salon, professionals soak cotton balls in acetone and apply them to each nail, then individually wrapped them in aluminum foil for a few minutes. Afterward, the gel — which should have softened — is gently scraped from the nail bed.
You can try to remove them at home, but be careful. It’s easy to cause damage to your nails if not done properly.
Why is a gel manicure more hazardous than a standard manicure?
Gel-based polish and standard polish have some commonalities. They both contain toxins, including formaldehyde.
But a gel manicure requires exposure to a UV light and soaking in acetone for removal. Standard polish can be removed by rubbing the cotton ball with polish remover over the nail bed.
“Gel nail applications also take significantly longer than a normal manicure. So getting that type of manicure will leave you inside a closed environment breathing in various chemicals for a longer period of time,” Jada Shapiro, certified lactation support counselor and founder of Boober tells Romper.
So just looking at those basics, it’s fair to say a standard polish manicure involves less exposure to toxins.
Is it safe to get gel nails while breastfeeding?
The short answer is yes.
While gel polish does contain solvents that can be toxic when used at certain levels, the products are approved by the FDA. And when they’re used correctly, there’s not a clear distinction that they are harmful during breastfeeding.
“The FDA notes that the nail itself can act as an absorption-preventing shield against the gel manicure product,” Gaither tells Romper.
With the understanding that research is always evolving and that toxins affect people in different ways, Gaither says, “It’s best to discuss with your health care provider potential exposure to the solvents before engaging in any activities that might include them.”
Substitutions for gel nails that are safer.
“If you are a new parent breastfeeding your baby and you tend to want to avoid chemical exposure in general, the most conservative route is to not go to nail salons while pregnant or breastfeeding and to find an alternative way to enjoy your nails during this time,” Shapiro says. But if you are keen on getting your nails done, toxin-free polish is a safer option.
In conclusion, getting a gel polish manicure is approved for breastfeeding mothers by the FDA, but as always, you should only participate in skincare and beauty routines that you are 100% comfortable with, especially during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. When in doubt, you can always reach out to your medical provider. And know that this phase of your life is temporary.
Dr. Kecia Gaither, M.D., OB-GYN