Uh Oh: Gel Manicures Up Your Chances of Getting Skin Cancer
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, the cancer risks of the UV lamps used to dry gel manicures are “not insignificant.” Get the scoop here.
Gel manicures seemed like a miracle when they first hit the scene. The last twice as long as regular manicures, and they don’t chip: What’s not to love? Well, eventually we discovered that they wreak absolute havoc on your natural nails— but if that wasn’t enough to scare you off, now there’s this: The UV lamp used to dry gel manicures puts you at risk for skin cancer. Yikes!
Elizabeth K. Hale, MD, Vice President of The Skin Cancer Foundation, announced that “although studies have shown that skin cancer risk associated with UVR-emitting nail lamps for gel manicures is very low, it is not insignificant.” We know that ultraviolet (UV) radiation-emitting devices are carcinogenic to humans, so this probably shouldn’t come as a surprise; but, continued Hale, “an estimated 700,000 cases of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are diagnosed each year in the US, resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths. SCC is mainly caused by chronic UV exposure and is very common on the hands and around the fingernails.”
As Refinery29 notes, cancer concerns were raised initially when gel manicures first appeared, but the evidence was determined to be inconclusive. We do still have to ask ourselves, though, whether knowingly and willingly exposing our hands to some pretty powerful UV rays in the name of beauty really seemed like such a good idea. Alas, it looks like we have our answer, and the takeaway is that while the risk isn’t huge, it’s still there, and therefore worth protecting ourselves against.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that if you absolutely MUST get a UV-gel manicure, apply sunscreen to your hands beforehand. You can also protect your hands not only from cancer, but also from wrinkles, brown spots, and other signs of aging, by applying a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or higher to your hands every two hours throughout the day. I’m particularly fond of Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunblock, SPF 30 ($10.99, drugstore.com) and Aveeno’s Active Naturals daily moisturizing lotion, SPF 15 ($10.99, drugstore.com), but whatever your fave, pick it and stick with it—your hands will thank you for it.
Tell us: Are you a gel manicure fan? Why or why not?
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s senior editor.