Is There Any Truth To Those Nail Myths We Hear About?

A manicure is one of life's simple pleasures. There's just something about caring for a body part often used to take care of others that creates a soothing vibe.

And whether it's a salon or DIY experience, a manicure is always relaxing, and the final results are undeniably satisfying. Nevertheless, over the years (or decades, rather) myths about whether or not something or the other is "safe" or "good" for your nails keeps popping up, which can leave manicure aficionados apprehensive.

Questions like, "Are acrylics bad?" "Can natural manicures and 10-free nail polish be the better option?" "Do your nails need time in between services to breathe?" and "What about curing lamps that use UV light, are they safe?" have all come up at some point or another.

To set the record straight, we caught up with celebrity nail tech Julie Kandalec, owner of Juile K. Nail Atelier in New York City, who has finessed the digits of women like MJ Rodriguez, Mariah Carey, and Viola Davis, to find out what's really real when it comes to manicures and nail health.

Myth: Curing lamps produce harmful UV rays.


In order to dry a gel manicure, you need to cure the polish. This means you'll need to place your hands inside a UV lamp for about 30 seconds per hand — but don't let that make you feel uncomfortable.

"The amount of UV exposure that you get during a manicure is equivalent to the UV exposure you get while walking to your mailbox to get the mail," says Kandalec. "It's grossly over dramatized."

But if you're still feeling unsure or uneasy, simply apply some sunscreen to your hands after the first part of your manicure is complete, before polish application.

Myth: Cutting your cuticles can cause them to grow back faster.


Yes, it's true — those pesky hang nails and extra skin around the edge of your nails will grow back faster if you cut your cuticles. But it's not necessarily a "bad" thing, so long as you're not doing any damage to your nail area.

"People get confused between proximal nail fold and the actual cuticle," explains Kandalec. "The cuticle is the non-living tissue that grows out onto the nail plate and that's what you technically push back. Proximal nail fold just doesn't roll out of the tongue as easily, so people use the word cuticle as a catch all for the area around the nail."

If this is a concern for you, the best instructions to give to your nail tech is to just trim what's loose. This way, they won't cut any unnecessary skin around the nails. But you should also keep in mind that your cuticles growing back is just a normal body response — not a bad one.

"They will grow back more because it's your body's defense to protect [itself] from bacteria or something entering," says Kandalec.

Myth: Your nails need to breathe between manicures.


Attention, attention — this is one of the most common nail myths, and we are here to tell you it's absolutely false.

"They don't have lungs. They don't need to breathe," Kandalec shares. "As long as your matrix is healthy, you're fine."

The nail pro defines the matrix as the "brain of the nail," and it's located between the end of your nail bed and your first knuckle. The matrix is made up of blood vessels and nerves and there isn't anything you can do to necessarily keep it healthy. "Just don't drop anything on it," Kandalec advises. 

Myth: Gel and acrylic sets are damaging to natural nails.


Is your aunt always shaming you for your back-to-back gel manicures or nail extensions, under the guise that they're destroying your natural nails? Well, with all due respect to your auntie, she's wrong.

"Improper application and improper removal — also potentially over-curing or under-curing — is what causes the damage," Kandalec explains. "Not the actual product."

Oh, and picking away at your manicure doesn't help either.

Kandalec explains that if you want your gel or acrylics off, the best thing to do is go to a salon with well-trained staff. "I file, I file again, I soak the nails, I wrap, I soak again," she says. "I gently nudge off [the product] with a wooden tool working towards the nail tip versus a metal tool working back. Those are all the things working towards preventing damage."

Myth: Biting your nails is bad for you.


Anxiety, stress, and a number of other factors can lead one to bite their nails. If this is you, at some point your mother or someone else may have swatted your hand and scolded, "Biting your nails is bad for you." Well, turns out they're right.

"It's bad for you because you are getting all that bacteria in your body," explains Kandalec. Bacteria like staphylococcus and streptococcus can live under your nails and on your hands. Ingesting these pathogens can lead to a staph infection, strep throat, or even blood infections.

So next time you think about biting your nails, don't. But if you're having a hard time quitting, try keeping your nails short or applying bitter tasting nail polish to slowly wean yourself off the habit.

Myth: You should only roll your bottle of polish, not shake it.


Polish is made up of pigments and solvents. Pigments are heavier so they are going to sink to the bottom, while solvents are lighter and will rise to the top.

"Think about a bottle of Italian dressing, the oil and water separate and the spices are heavier so they are going to sink. If you roll that bottle of Italian dressing, what's going to happen? Nothing. You have to shake it," Kandalec explains. "Same with polish. If there are bubbles, when you are painting your nails, you press the bubbles out anyway on the rim of nail polish bottle."

So next time you're painting your own nails at home, make sure to shake that polish bottle like a Polaroid picture.

Myth: The “cleaner” the polish, the better.


It started with 5-free nail polish, which prevented typical toxins including formaldehyde or dibutyl phthalate (DBP) from being in the formula. Now, you can find up to 21-free (yes, really) polish. But does it really make a difference?

"It's fear mongering," Kandalec assures us. "As a consumer, you are looking at the number [and thinking,] 'Well, if this is 5-free and this is 8-free, I'm going to throw away the five and not even know what the other three ingredients are.'"

But if you're into clean beauty products, the best thing to do is read the labels and research the ingredients. And even if you go with a traditional formula, you'll find that not all ingredients are problematic, and some are only dangerous in large amounts.

"One of the ingredients that higher toxic-free polishes boast about withholding is acetone," Kandalec says. "Acetone is not dangerous — it's drying. Also, it's what you use to take your polish off."

So yeah, just pay attention to the ingredients and once you've done your own research, make the decision that's right for you.

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