Are Gel Nail Polishes And UV Lamps Safe?

It might be time to break up with gel manicures.


A recent study has found that the UV lamps used to dry gel nail polish may come with a few health risks. In the study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found that UV nail polish dryers can damage DNA and lead to cancer-causing mutations in human cells.

The researchers looked at three different populations of cells: adult human epidermal keratinocytes, human foreskin fibroblasts, and mouse embryonic fibroblasts. The cell lines were then exposed to two UV light conditions, acute exposure and chronic exposure, for different periods.

Results showed a link between the nail dryer lamps and the damaging of cells’ a “single 20-minute” session with these UV emitting devices resulted in “20 to 30 percent cell death”. In addition, three consecutive 20-minute exposures to the lights “caused between 65 per and 70 percent [of] cell death”.

Although results showed the danger of using UV nail polish dryers on repeated occurrence, researchers noted that a long-term study needs to be done before “stating conclusively” that the machines could lead to an increased risk of skin cancers.

Dermatologists have also acknowledged that the risk of developing cancer through gel manicures ties into how often you go to the salon. “If you’re someone who goes to get their nails done once a week and you put your hands under those lamps for 10 minutes, you might want to be worried,” Melissa Piliang, MD, told the Cleveland Clinic in January 2021. However, she noted that if you go to the salon a couple of times a year, you shouldn’t be too concerned, adding: “It’s a very, very small risk.”

In addition, the Food and Drug Association (FDA) noted that even though UV radiation can damage your skin, nail-curing lamps present a low risk for cancer when used as directed.

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