The Derm Group

Are local nail salons losing safety for style?

When you walk into Cathy’s Nice Nails & Hair, you might feel as though you’ve just entered a scene from the movie “Steel Magnolias,” where the nail salon is a second home.

Owner Cathy Serrantonio said her warm, big personality often gets compared to that of Truvy Jones, the owner of the salon in the popular film.

Clients go to Cathy’s for major trends, including blue nail polish, sparkles and the most talked about fad — gel manicures, which provide a permanent color for at least two weeks, using UV or LED lights to dry instantly. “Girls love that. It goes on natural nails, you leave completely dry,” Serrantonio said. “That’s the positive side of those lights. Nobody wants to sit around anymore and dry. They stay beautiful for two weeks, then you come back and it’s taken off very noninvasively. Boom, boom, boom! There’s no drilling. It peels right off.”

Nail trends are constantly changing.

There’s been French nails, acrylic nails, nail art, and now gel nails are taking over in the beauty realm.

Safety first

The Skin Cancer Foundation released a statement in 2013 that said, “Research has shown that ultraviolet (UV) radiation-emitting devices are carcinogenic to humans. Although studies have shown that the skin cancer risk associated with UVR-emitting nail lamps for gel manicures is very low, it is not insignificant.”

David Davidson, president of the New Jersey Dermatology Physician Assistant Society, who’s also been a physician assistant for 15 years at the Dermatology Group in Freehold, said over time, gel manicures can have harmful effects.

“There’s all different manufacturers of UV light — some are stronger, some are weaker, but with UV damage it’s cumulative,” Davidson said. “Even if you’re only putting your hand under for 30 seconds or a minute, most people are going every two weeks. Multiply every two weeks by five years, you’re getting tremendous UV damage.”

Davidson added that UV damage can cause brown spots, early signs of aging and skin cancer. He recommends putting on an SPF 30 sunblock 30 minutes before getting a gel manicure or seek out LED light, which does not have harmful effects. If the light feels too hot, he suggests taking your hands out for a few minutes to prevent damage.

We decided to talk to the top nail salons at the Jersey Shore, many of which are moving toward safer practices, to get their take on the matter.

Serrantonio who spent 20 years of her life working as a stay at home mother, decided to open her own nail salon, Cathy’s Nice Nails & Hair, 93 S Main St. in Farmingdale, six years ago. As someone who’s always loved getting her nails dolled up, Serrantonio realized there were not many services available for women in the area after she moved from New York.

“It was my dream,” Serrantonio said. “My husband said to me, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ I decided to give it a whirl.”

She’s built her business model centered around budget-friendly services. Her salon is home to the $20 pedicure.

Serrantonio said many women do not have time to come in for weekly appointments, and as a result they are looking to use CND Shellac gel polish.

Cathy’s Nice Nails & Hair uses UV light to cure the gel polish so that you can leave the salon with perfectly dry nails.

Serrantonio is aware of the studies that suggest UV exposure can cause skin damage and skin cancer, and she said she believes they’re an overreaction.

“It’s not any worse than walking outside and going out into the sun,” Serrantonio said. “The length of time the client is under that light, it can’t possibly do damage and it’s only your fingertips. As long as you’re using top of the line products, top of the line light, I really can’t see the hysteria about it.”

Removing the gel takes about five minutes, Cathy’s Nice Nails and Hair places acetone on a cotton ball, which then gets applied to the nails and the nails are then wrapped in tin foil. Serrantonio said the gel can then be reapplied or the client can go back to regular nail polish.

She said acrylic nails, on the other hand, do damage the nails. Acrylic nails are a fake nail enhancement that uses powder and liquid. Most clients are straying away from this old trend, Serrantonio added.

She said acrylic requires using a drill, which takes off the natural layer of your nails, weakening them.

“We honestly don’t do too much of it because it’s extremely time consuming and more and more girls are going to Shellac manicures because it’s all about short natural nails. If you look at the stars, they all have short natural nails,” Serrantonio said.