3 tips to stop gel manicures from damaging your nails B JENNY PACKHAM BACKSTAGE.pngImage: Showbit

Hey girlfriend, are you a gel manicure maniac? Here’s something that may make you wring your hands in horror: They’re terribly toxic – well, certainly more so than your basic bring-home polish, at any rate.

Potential carcinogenic effects aside, the gel removal process itself, which any beauty junkie will know involves an approximately 10-minute acetone bath, can be decidedly destructive – a 2012 study found that alas, gel manis do indeed cause thinning of the nails. Bummer, right?

Now, between this and our previous reports on lead in lippies and heavy metals in mascara, you might be tempted to thrash your entire beauty cabinet and renounce makeup for life. Don’t. Happily, this needn’t be the final nail in the coffin for your monthly meet-up with your manicurist. Presenting some “handy” tips for salon safety:

Tip #1. Don’t file off more than you can chew. Does your go-to heartland auntie wield her nail file like a saw when stripping off your old gel? Not good. Filing back and forth loosens the onion-like layers of your nail, which means you’re risking chipped cuticles and hairline fissures along your nail bed;

Expert advice? Pick your polish person carefully. “It all boils down to the nail technician’s skills, really,” says Fan Wen Qing, head nail technician at SoQ Nails. “Some manicurists cut corners by over-filing the nail bed, thereby weakening the nails. So I guess my tip would be to choose your nail person wisely.”

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Tip #2. Hands off every two months. Hold off on the varnish if your cuticles are already in bad shape. Instead, consider dialing back on the drama and letting your nails “breathe” every two months or so by going out with just a slick of nutritious oil. I’m obsessed with Orly’s Gel Fx Cuticle Oil, $45, a power-packed elixir of vitamins which also imparts a barely there sheen that’s just right for off-duty days.

Tip #3. Don’t let your mask slip. Nourish damaged nails back to life with a comforting cuticle mask. What you do is to slap on oodles of cream around each nail-bed, then wipe off any excess after about five minutes or so.

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Try Aveda’s deliciously scented Hand Relief Night Renewal Serum, which does double duty as an excellent targeted treatment. If you’re looking for a purse-friendly option, plain old petroleum jelly will do in a pinch.

Bottom line? Gel manicures are gorgeous time-savers, but can be dreadfully drying if you’re not careful. Circumvent this by being scrupulous about not filing them too aggressively, treating them to regular cream masks and spacing your sessions out to allow your nails to breathe. That way, you needn’t deny yourself the pleasures of a truly killer set of talons. Good luck!

Want more nail news?  Negative space nail art is both incredibly cool and unbelievably easy to execute at home. Here’s how to pull off this polish trend like a boss.