January 26, 2023
It’s hard to imagine life before gel manicures. No drying time, a glossy finish, and two-week staying power is the stuff nail dreams are made of, especially for those about to say “I do.” However, are these manicures safe? New research points to the potential health risks of UV lights used in gel manicures.
The risks of UV exposure
UV drying lamps, frequently used for gel manicures, can alter the DNA and cells in ways that can lead to cancer, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of California and published in Nature.
The study showed that long wavelengths of ultraviolet light (UVA) from drying lamps might increase the risk of skin cancer. A link has already been well documented between tanning beds and sun exposure but has never been proven with gel manicures.
The research team saw multiple changes with exposure: first, the DNA gets damaged, and some of that damage does not get repaired over time. “It leads to mutations after every exposure with a UV-nail polish dryer,” said Ludmil Alexandrov, a professor of bioengineering at the university and author of the study.
The study didn’t look at real people. Instead, the researchers exposed cells derived from humans and mice to UV light from nail dryers. They observed that after 20 minutes, 20% to 30% of the cells had died. After three consecutive 20-minute sessions, 65% to 70% of the cells had died. Scientists would need to conduct a large-scale epidemiological study to quantify the changes in cancer risk in the general population.
Are gel nail polishes and UV nail dryers safe?
The United States Food and Drug Administration considers UV nail dryers used to set gel manicures and pedicures low-risk when used as directed. There is no evidence that the machines cause cancer, even though some research has shown that UV radiation from some nail dryers is stronger than the sun, which can cause skin cancer.
Alexandrov said researchers could not conclude, based on the study, that these dryers increase cancer risks because first, they would need to conduct a large-scale epidemiological study to quantify the changes in the general population. Nail salons may also want to offer their clients sunscreen to protect against the damaging UVA light.
This article is sourced with information from a story that originally appeared on the NBC News website.