Does UV Light From Gel Manicures Cause Skin Cancer?

I LOVE gel manicures. In fact, I was half overjoyed and half perturbed when I first learned about the game-changing nail polish years ago.

Why? Because for years I kept asking my manicurist if she could put acrylic on top of my nail polish to make it last more than two days.

Little did I know this amazing thing called gel nails was about to be the new standard in every nail salon, and I was one of millions looking for a solution to making my manicure last longer without having to get acrylic nails.

So, aside from not being the one to invent it, I was thrilled to finally have a way to make my polish last longer and make getting my nails done worth the time and money.

That is until I started hearing about how long-term exposure to the UV light omitted from the curing lamp could cause skin cancer.

WHAT? You mean the wonderful way of keeping my nails looking beautiful might now give me skin cancer?! Say it isn’t so!

The truth is the jury is still out on this one. Some experts say yes, your risk of getting skin cancer is increased when you expose your hands to the UV-A rays of the lamp.

Others say the amount of manicures you would need to receive to put you at risk for getting skin cancer is so high it would be difficult to achieve in your lifetime.

The rays omitted by the UV lamps are four times stronger than the sun’s UV rays. Although the amount of time your nails and hands are exposed to the light are brief, the cumulative effect might cause skin damage, especially for those who are frequent visitors of the nail salon, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Also, some people are naturally more sensitive to UV rays, which puts them at a higher risk for skin damage and premature aging. Other skin issues caused by overexposure to UV rays are dark spots and loss of elasticity. And improper curing can even cause nail damage or the nail to separate from the nail bed or plate.

On the flip side, some doctors say there still isn’t enough research and evidence to support this claim, and without it it’s hard to come up with a definitive answer as to whether or not there is reason for concern.

The total time your nails and the small percentage of your hands are exposed to the light might not be enough to create any skin damage. Furthermore, you are at a greater risk for sun damage when you are outside and exposed to the sun’s rays.

Those who live in sunny climates or work in the sun for extended periods of time run a greater risk of developing skin cancer than those who opt for gel nails.

Experts say if your skin isn’t turning red, changing colors, or if your nails are still healthy, you probably are being exposed to very little UV rays, according to The Atlantic. 

So, what can you do to help protect yourself? Because if you’re anything like me chances are you’re still going to get gel manicures.

All experts agree you should wear an SPF of 30 or higher before getting your nails done. The biggest concern is protecting the back of your hands because your nails naturally protect themselves from UV rays.

There are also special gloves you can wear that protect the skin from UV exposure. Although with these fashion statements you would have to cut the fingertips off of them to allow your nails to be exposed.

Lastly, listen to your body. If your nails are looking weak, brittle, are changing colors, detaching from their nail bed or burning under the UV lamp, take a break from gel manicures and let your nails heal themselves.