Burning Nails: The Reason and Solution Behind Gel Nail Burns

You love your gel nails. They look fabulous and last for several weeks. There is only one problem with your gel manicure and it is your burning nails.

Some people experience a burning sensation that can be painful. If it happens to you, it’s almost enough to make you give up your gel nails.

Here’s why you have burning nails after gel polish and what you can do to prevent it from occurring.


Why Your Nails Burn After Gel Polish?

burnt nail

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Gel manicure burns aren’t a figment of your imagination. It’s backed by science. Gel heat spikes can occur as chemical bonds form to your nails during curing. The burning sensation is known as an exothermic reaction.

The bonds use energy as they are forming, and also release energy. The amount of energy released determines the severity of the burning sensation.


The Type of Gel Polish You Use Matters

applying gel polish

Gels are divided into categories, and some produce less energy than others. Lower amounts of energy reduce your risk for gel nail burns. It depends on the number of bonds formed and the drying time.

Soak-off gel tips produce very little heat, while harder ones will use more energy to form multiple bonds. If you are wondering why do my nails burn under UV lights? It’s due to the fast drying process.

The bonds release more energy when they are curing. It’s what gives you the feeling your nails are burning.


How the Gel is Applied

How the gel is applied will minimize or intensify the burning feeling. When the gel is applied too quickly, more energy is used and released.

It’s the same if the gel coat is too thick. It will use more energy to dry. The burning sensation can become stronger when the gel is drying under a UV or LED lamp.


Solutions to Burning Gel Nails

Giving up your gel manicures will stop your nails from feeling like they’re burning, but it’s not your only option. If your nails are healthy, you can keep getting your favorite manicure. There are a few things you can do to stop the pain.

Schedule Salon Appointments During Non-Busy Times

burnt nail treatment

A busy nail salon is a good sign. It usually means the nail technicians are good at their job. Customers leave happy with their manicures and become repeat customers.

The only downside is your nail technician is often steadily booked throughout the day. It means they need to get their clients in and out as quickly as possible.

One way they keep to their busy schedule is by rushing the curing process on gels. It does get you back to your regular activities faster, but it comes at a price. Your nails may feel like they’re burning, and the sensation is often painful.

Scheduling your appointment on slower days ensures your nail technician has plenty of time to spend with you. Your gel nails will dry slower, reducing the amount of energy used and heat released.

Don’t be afraid to let your manicurist know you are experiencing a burning sensation. Most will slow down the drying process to keep their clientele happy and return every time they need a manicure.


Use Multiple Thin Gel Layers

gel polish layers

Whether you are giving yourself a gel manicure at home or salon, you want to pay attention to the thickness of each coat. It’s tempting to apply a thicker one coat. You will finish faster, but it also comes with the risk of burning nails.

Applying multiple thin gel coats and letting each one dry is the best way to minimize the chemical reaction. It gives the chemicals time to finish the bond before more energy and heat are released.

It does take more time to finish your manicure but it’s worth it when your nails don’t burn.


Pay Attention to the Type of Heat Lamp

nail lamp

Gels need to undergo a curing process for the bonds to form to your natural nails. If the bonds are weak, your manicure won’t last as long. The gel nail polish may chip or break away from your natural nails.

Salons and stores sell two types of curing lamps, LED and UV lamps. LED lamps are the fastest. It usually only takes 30 seconds to complete the curing process. The reason for the shorter curing time is due to the type of wavelengths used. LED lamps for gel nails produce concentrated wavelengths making them more intense. Chances are, you will feel a burning sensation with this type of drying lamp.

You will spend more time with your nails under a UV lamp. It takes around two minutes for the gel to cure. The wavelengths are also spread out evenly across your nails, minimizing the amount of energy and heat released. You are less likely to experience an intense burning feeling with a UV lamp.


Use a Local Antiseptic

antiseptic for nails

A primer is applied to your nails before the gel. It removes the oil and shines from your nails allowing the gel to bond. It’s a step you don’t want to skip, but it can also cause a burning sensation.

It usually only happens when you have thin nails, but it can affect anyone.

If you have thin or brittle nails and are set on a gel manicure, grab a topical antiseptic before your manicure. Applying a little around the nail, paying attention to your cuticles will minimize some of the pain.

Anyone with nails that aren’t in the best health, may want to consider laying off gel manicures for a while. Letting your nails heal not only takes away a lot of the burning but also helps ensure your gels look great.


Final Thoughts

Gel manicure burns are common, but it doesn’t have to be a normal part of your manicure. You can take steps to minimize the sensation without giving up your gels.

Use several light coats of gel, and don’t speed up the drying time. You also want to pay attention to the health of your natural nails. If they are thin or brittle, take some time off to get them back in shape.


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