woman getting a pedicure in a nail salonGel pedicures may be long-lasting, durable, and look great, but they may not be the best option for your toes. These types of pedicures can be dangerous and lead to serious complications. Before opting for gel polish for your toes, consider the potential risks and injuries associated with this type of spa treatment to determine if it is the right choice for you.

Types of Gel Pedicure Injuries

A gel pedicure involves the application of gel nail polish to the toenails. Gel polish is cured or hardened using UV or LED light to create a durable and long-lasting finish. Using a nail salon that adheres to proper techniques and hygiene practices is essential to minimize the risk of injury or infection. The use of UV or LED light during the curing process may also raise concerns about potential skin damage from prolonged exposure.

Possible injuries that gel pedicures can cause include:

  • Onychogryphosis. Gel pedicures use strong chemicals and prolonged exposure to UV light. In some cases, this can result in onychogryphosis, a condition where the nail becomes thickened, curved, and resembles a ram's horn. This permanent condition can be aesthetically unappealing and may require medical intervention to address.
  • Paronychia. Paronychia is an infection that occurs around the nail bed. Using improper sterilization techniques or injury during the gel application process can introduce bacteria, leading to an infection. This can cause pain, redness, swelling, and pus-filled blisters around the nail.
  • Pyogenic granuloma. A pyogenic granuloma is a benign vascular tumor that can occur due to trauma or injury to the nail bed. The use of UV light during gel pedicures can increase the risk of developing this condition. Pyogenic granulomas are characterized by the appearance of a red, raised, and bleeding bump on or near the nail.
  • Cellulitis. Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that can occur if the skin is broken during the gel pedicure process. If the tools used are not adequately sterilized or the skin around the nails is nicked or cut, bacteria can enter and cause an infection. Cellulitis can cause redness, swelling, warmth, and pain in the affected area.
  • Toe fracture. Some gel pedicures involve soaking the feet in warm water, which can soften the skin and make it more prone to injury. If excessive force or pressure is applied during the pedicure, it can lead to a toe fracture. This is mainly a concern for individuals with weak or brittle nails.
  • Subungual exostosis. A subungual exostosis is a bony outgrowth that occurs underneath the nail. It can develop due to chronic irritation or trauma to the nail bed. Using harsh chemicals and rough nail preparation techniques during gel pedicures can increase the risk of developing this condition.
  • Bone infection. Although extremely rare, if a patient develops a foot ulcer and it becomes severely infected, it can potentially spread to the bone if left untreated. This can be a severe condition that requires immediate medical attention.

If you have a condition such as diabetes, take extra caution if you plan on treating yourself to a pedicure. Diabetes can lead to poor blood circulation and nerve damage in the feet, which can increase the risk of infection and cause problems with wound healing if you happen to experience an accidental cut during your pedicure.

Gel Polish Removal Risks

In addition to the problems associated with the application of gel polish, the process of removing gel polish can also cause problems. Removing gel polish often involves soaking the nails in acetone for an extended period. The acetone can strip the nails of their natural oils, leaving them dry, thin, and brittle. This can make the nails more susceptible to breaking, splitting, and damage.

Regular nail polish is generally considered safer than gel polish. It does not involve UV light, and the removal process is typically less damaging to the nails. However, it is essential to ensure that proper hygiene practices are followed during regular nail polish application to minimize the risk of infection. Visiting a reputable salon with experienced technicians who follow proper safety protocols when performing any pedicure is essential.

Ultimately, weighing the potential risks and benefits is crucial before deciding on a gel pedicure. Consulting with a podiatrist may provide further guidance if you have concerns about safety or potential risks.