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    Tips to Keep Your Manicures Pretty and Healthy

    Fashionable Fingertips

    Which Kind of Manicure Is Best? continued...

    "Lacquer is healthier, without a doubt," Roberts says. "There is no risk of skin cancer on the nail bed. The safest [way] is, take a little time, let the nails air dry.''

    However, the nail industry disputes the UV light and skin cancer link. Three industry experts tested the leading UV nail lamps to determine their UV emissions and published their findings in Nails Magazine in 2010.

    They found that the lamps emit relatively low UV light levels -- levels that they say are considered safe exposure levels. The comparison to UV tanning beds is not accurate, they say.

    How to Pick a Color of Nail Lacquer?

    "Nail lacquer consists of organic pigments in the solvent," Roberts says. The FDA maintains a list of color additives permitted for use in cosmetics. "Your color should be an FDA-approved one."

    If the polish is sold by a reputable company, she says, chances are good it is on the FDA-approved list.

    The colors on the list, she says, are less likely to cause a contact dermatitis. In contact dermatitis, the skin becomes red, sore, or inflamed after contact with a substance, such as nail polish.

    To see if the color additive in your nail polish is on the list, first check the ingredients list (often easier to read if you check the nail polish product ingredient list online, rather than the tiny print on the label.)

    Next, check the FDA list.

    Is a Weekly Manicure Habit OK?

    Yes, with caveats, Roberts says. There's no need for a nail ''holiday'' to let the nails breathe if you pay attention to your nail health.

    ''You want to be aware of over-drying the nail plate," she says. "When you remove the polish, the polish remover dries and thins the nail and can cause breaking and thinning, similar to over-processing the hair.''

    Look for a manicurist who guards your nail health, she says. "If you are doing regular manicures, a good moisturizing oil or cream should be part of the manicure." It can be applied, then the residue wiped off before the polish is put on.

    If you polish regularly, multiple vitamins are good [for nail health], including B vitamins, zinc, and Vitamin C for cartilage and healthy skin, Roberts says.

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