Why You Should Wear Gloves To Your Gel Manicure Appointment

We know what you're thinking. Gloves during a manicure? What the heck are you thinking? But hear us out. It's not a rarity for us to look to the Kardashian/Jenner clan for the latest thing in the beauty world, so we were pretty intrigued with Kylie Jenner posted this manicure video to TikTok in which she showed herself wearing a black glove while getting a stunning yet simple pearlescent gel manicure. "The Kardashians" star wore the fingerless accessory while putting her hand under the UV light to cure her nails and it got us thinking, erm, why?

Well, it turns out (unlike a lot of what the K and J clan do) this accessory decision actually wasn't for the sake of fashion or a cute aesthetic. There's a real, solid reason why wearing gloves, or at least one glove, during your next mani appointment is a great idea for some pretty serious safety reasons. So let's get into it.

What really happens to our skin when it's exposed to UV rays?

It turns out Kylie Jenner's glove had a major benefit. Though they looked like your typical fingerless gloves with slightly longer finger sections, they were actually UV-protecting gloves, designed to shield the majority of her hand from the rays while her nails were still exposed. How innovative is that?

The reason why this is so important is that, as you may know, there's been some controversy about the health risks of UV gel manicures. A 2023 study published in Nature Communications got the beauty world talking after discovering the potential for UV lamps to cause mutation in our cells that could potentially cause cancer. 

In a nutshell, the study tested the effects of exposing cells from humans and mice to a UV lamp for 20 minutes twice a day. It found that up to 30% of the cells actually died after one session, while up to 70% of them died after three 20-minute sessions. As for the cells that survived, the study found that they showed signs of mutations that have previously been seen in people with skin cancer. While the risk of skin cancer is, of course, the most dangerous potential side effect of the process, it's also worth noting that UV rays also have other risks, including premature aging of the hands.

Wearing gloves can limit the amount of UV your hands are exposed to

By wearing a glove that only exposes the nails and protects the rest of your hand from UV rays, essentially, you're eliminating much of your hand from actually being exposed to the potentially harmful rays. As GP and aesthetician, Dr Ahmed El Muntasar put it to Glamour, "Any UV exposure causes mutations but it's always about the amount of UV exposure you get. So if you are getting gel nails done with UV every time you want to switch up your nail [color], you are increasing your risk of cancer." Covering your skin should decrease this risk, although it's worth remembering your nail beds and fingertips will still be exposed as it's impossible to keep them concealed during a manicure.

As more people become aware of the potential risks associated with a gel mani, more UV-safe gloves have been popping up to purchase. Just like with sunblock, when buying yours, look out for the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) which will tell you how much of the UV rays will be blocked out. Fabric with a UPF 50 is ideal, as that means it will block out 98% of rays, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation

There are other ways to protect your hands from UV rays, too

If, for whatever reason, you can't or don't want to wear a glove for your gel manicure, there are other ways to help keep your hands protected from UV rays. In an Instagram post, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Adeline Kikam (also known as Brown Skin Derm) offered a few tips, including making sure you apply water-resistant sunblock with an SPF of at least 30 before getting your manicure or opting for deep powders that have less UV exposure. She also suggested simply opting for fewer gel manicures to reduce exposure. If you go this route, luckily, there are a ton of tips you can employ to stretch out your mani-pedis, like wearing a base and a top coat and wearing gloves while doing the dishes.

However, if you can get your hands on some UV-protecting gloves, it seems like plenty of experts would recommend doing so. It certainly seems to be the best option right now for keeping you protected, particularly if you try it alongside other methods. "As a physician, if I told you, 'Oh, just wear sunscreen if you get gel manicures and you'll be okay,' I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. Sunscreens are tested with sunlight. This is not sunlight — it's more intense," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Chris G. Adigun told The Cut, who recommended using both sunscreen and gloves for maximum protection.