gel manicure and skin cancer

This is a question I get asked a lot and what a wise question! For those of you who get fortnightly gel manicures, this is something to think about.

Traditionally, the lamps used during these manicures were ultraviolet lamps predominantly emitting UVA. Ultraviolet-A radiation is associated with a higher skin cancer risk. There have been cases reported of skin cancer developing after UV nail lamp exposure. A 2014 study in JAMA Dermatology found that the level of UVA associated with a fortnightly manicure is probably not high enough to increase the risk of skin cancer significantly.

Overall, the good news is that the majority of the bigger brands which are commercially available have now switched to LED-bulbs. LED stands for light-emitting diodes and they are safer than UVA. Unfortunately, LED lamps can still emit some ultraviolet radiation in the form of UVA.

Gel manicures and skin cancer: what to be aware of

So the science around the issue of gel manicures and skin cancer remains controversial and inconclusive but the American Association of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation have issued advice on this. They suggest that regardless of the type of lamp, before getting your nails done it is a good idea to protect your hands from UVA exposure by using a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB), high SPF sunscreen on your hands and or using a pair of fingerless gloves. There is also probably an unappreciated risk with the availability of at-home DIY gel manicure kits that come with their own lamps and the drying lamps used to speed up the drying of conventional air-drying polish.

So remember before your next manicure to help reduce your risk:

  • Check what type of lamp your salon is using
  • Put on sun cream
  • Invest in some fingerless gloves.