Cosmetic Controversy: The Truth About Nail Polish

Hello to all of you beautiful nerds and welcome back from traveling the vast nerd universe! It’s time for that long awaited post!

Cosmetic Controversy: The Truth About Nail Polish


This post is based on facts and personal experiences. Please respect what the writer has to say because it’s good to agree to disagree but do it respectfully. You have been warned!

I was hoping to do this last year because it was something that hit a little bit home for me. As you know, after a long week of work, I love to pull out my nail care items alongside a bottle of nail polish I may have just purchased from Color Club or Lights Lacquer or may have received from Ipsy and give my nails a nice coat of base, color, quick dry, and top coat and it gives me that look for a few weeks and chips as it goes. Right? Well, after getting my first refund from school, I decided to have a day to myself by going to the mall for some needed relaxation after having a busy week and took the opportunity after getting blood drawn for one of my doctors and decided why not check out the nail salon in the mall?

I arrived at the salon and asked what the prices were for manicures and heard that a regular one was $17 and the gel was $30 and decided to see how well their regular polish was and went with a navy one for the regular price. I was helped to a table with a woman and I never thought I would be bombarded with suggestions of getting the gel manicure and why it was better than regular manicures. Even the guy at the counter came over and tried to get me out of the regular manicure by telling me the gel is better and lasts me longer, except my nail polish on my nails I used before this appointment lasted me three weeks by this point and will get to that later and was annoyed and told him I still want regular and will do the gel next time. I felt he was giving me the look of “Don’t come back to us if it chips easily.” Then the attendant told me that regular polish dries out your nails and then the reasons for gel as well. I felt as though they were trying to corner me for a deal rather than what I want which I understand from a business standpoint but a customer wants what they want and I was sticking by it! The manicure did come out nice and even though I promised to come back, I never went back after hearing some things from a co-worker about some of their experiences and told them about their push for gel. My manicure did last me all the rest of the month into February! This is with regular polish and a top coat mond you. After that experience, I went into research mode and decided why not talk about it?

The Differences Between The Polishes

Let’s break down the differences between each polish. Nowadays, we have regular polish that you can find on your favorite shelves at Ulta and Target, gel, non-toxic which you can sometimes find in stores but mostly online, and dip nails. 

Regular: Regular polish is more of a mixture of a polymer and a solvent that gets painted onto the nail plate and can be removed with an acetone remover but can cause non-permanent discoloration with most dark colors if not too careful.

Gel: This term is also known as “Five-Free Polish” because these polishes don’t contain five commonly used chemicals that can be harmful but not really proven as yet. Subscription boxes tend to carry these but you can look around in your favorite beauty retailer or online for some of these brands but one I tend to use is Color Club.

Even though they last longer, gel polishes are mainly photo reactive which have to be cured under a UV light. UV light can be damaging to the skin after prolonged exposure and can also cause aging when it comes to the hands. Also the polish can cause the nails to be a bit brittle, so best to use this for special occasions because the removal process is more harsh than acetone alone because you have to file it off, especially with electric files. I remembered the attendant did use one of those motorized files to remove my polish that day.

Dip: This is a manicure that has a polymer that is made to be like super glue to [painted on first, then the nail either dipped into an acrylic powder or the powder is painted on with a brush and then an activator is used to form a hard shell. There is an issue with sanitation since the best practice for a salon is to place the powder into small containers or use clean brushes to paint the powder on since fungus in salons can occur. It happened to my mom once even though it was not a dip powder job but it can happen.

Which Is Better?

Dermatologists do approve regular polish the most since you can easily spread your manicures out since nails can become brittle and dry over time. I am going through that at the moment with my own nails but it’s not due to nail polish exactly. Non-toxic is a good option if you have sensitive skin like I do to prevent contact dermatitis due to how the chemicals in most polishes like Formaldehyde don’t really have much proof when it comes to harm to health over time. I would say wear a mask since that strong smell in any polish can occur. I still use Color Club not only because of the Five Free idea but I do enjoy how long the colors stay on my nails longer than most polishes. I can go for almost a month with polish. Like I said above, I was wearing a Color Club before that fateful day which lasted me two to three weeks while wearing it. I think it depends on the company that makes the polish and what kind of top coat you use to keep them staying longer. Also, think about the activity you do, whether it’s typing like I am doing now or washing dishes, nails do chip based on what you do. Heck, I lose false nails based on what I do too.

But Where Does the Drying Come In?

Acetone helps remove the polish and get off easier because it causes the polish to turn to liquid easily once the polymers are broken down. Not only does it help remove nail polish but it also helps remove glue and paint. What does that mean for our nails? Easy, it dehydrates them if we use it regularly, heck it’s more dehydrating than other products we use on our nails, even more than regular nail polish. No wonder I just let my nail polish chip naturally, if I can;t then I would use the remover pot. If you already have dryness, it would advance as time goes on and cause even more peeling, breakage, and other effects. Ouch! There are acetone free nail polish removers everywhere next to the acetone ones. Anyone want to work at a salon? Acetone-free would help more.

I bet the last bit would be surprising and that is gel polish also causes nails to dry and not regular polish. That’s easy my dear Watson! Hand washing, repeated use of acetone removers, and repeated use of gel polishes! As you know, everytime we use the bathroom or do something very unsanitary, we’re always told to wash our hands or use hand sanitizer to keep our hands clean. The most active ingredient in a lot of soaps and sanitizer is alcohol! Alcohol is very drying for any part of the body, whether it’s prolonged use for acne like I had in the past or even for hand use, it can dry out your skin and that can be a common cause for your nails and cuticles to dry out. I have noticed as of late that my nails were breaking very easily and this was without polish on them mind you and looked it up to see it was due to washing my hands a lot. All thanks to the pandemic and even rewinding back to H1N1 back in 2009, we were told to kill the possible infection is to wash your hands with an antibacterial hand soap and of course I carry these all thanks to my trips to Bath & Body Works and sometimes bought them from stores, even when I had to clean my piercings during healing time I used antibacterial soap from Dial for those six to eight weeks and yes my right, index finger suffered so much where that nail broke first all the time! Best thing is to use hand lotion or your usual lotion after handwashing to get the moisture back.

Another suspect is the nail polish remover you use that may contain acetone. Yes, it is great to remove that pesky polish you had on, especially if it has the pretty glitter flecks that a lot of people love but it can do harm to your nails than good and that with repeated manicures it can cause peeling, cracking, and and brittleness from the roughness. Also, sometimes the removal can also cause more damage with the wrong tools when buffing it away, even electric files get used. I don’t get why the lady used one of these with my nail polish when it’s not gel. I guess I preferred regular polish to save my nails from suffering. Not only that, where I pulled the information about the peeling, there are tips such as seeing if the tools are cleaned at the salon since most places don’t keep their tools cleaned. Now you can see where the sanitization for dip comes into play. Another is not to peel off any gel polish due to moisture build-up since gel can start coming off. Also, acetone also gets used to remove gel from what I’ve seen with this resource but the place I went to used files.

What Should I Do?

I would say just use a traditional nail polish over gel. Like I said above, dermatologists do recommend them more, if you are worried about the chemicals in them then check out some of the non-toxic brands by researching them online. I do recommend Lights Lacquer and Color Club as two of these brands since they are made in the U. S. A.

I bet you’re wondering, I have not returned to this salon in the mall because I don’t want to be pushed by a product I want again. I have heard good things about other salons some people have gone to and may try those if I want to get another manicure and one place is even closer to where I am now. I also don’t recommend this place because I have a feeling if I were to send someone and they decided on a similar manicure I had then they would go through the same thing. Like I said before, I understand the business aspects and want the tip and so on but pushing something, especially having the cashier/manager push it onto you is a bad sign. One other thing I forgot to mention, they tried to tell me that gel polish dries quicker under the lamp and that the regular polish takes longer. That day I was not in a hurry because it was a day for myself. I think that would be a bad sign if they want to push their customers out, even loyal ones, due to one service being better then why return? Like I said, I didn’t return to this salon, I may try another one in town at some point but in the meantime, I have tons of polish in my Color Club collection and others I got from Ipsy to use. 

Here My Resources

Gel Manicures: Tips for Healthy Nails

A Look At Nail Polish and Its Effects On Health

Is Acetone Bad For Your Nails?

That completes this post! I know it was long but felt good to finally get this up after a year. Like I said, things got in the way since that manicure and will go to another salon. If you think there is another topic that fits Cosmetic Controversy, just comment below! Still reading some books so stay tuned!

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