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Are Nail Salon UV Lamps Safe?

Gel manicures have become increasingly popular, as they last longer than conventional nail polish and are highly resistant to chipping. However, the proper application of a gel manicure requires the use of nail salon dryers utilizing UV rays. Are nail salon UV lamps safe?

The New York Times recently reported on a study that looked into the risk of skin cancer resulting from the use of nail salon UV lamps. The researchers examined 17 light sources from 16 different nail salons, and found that there was a wide variation in terms of the amount of UV exposure from each of the UV lamps sampled.

The doses of UVA light from the UV lamps tested ranged from one to eight joules per centimeter squared. UVA light can cause DNA damage associated with an increased risk of skin cancer. For DNA damage to lead to skin cancer, around 60 joules per centimeter squared is required. According to the researchers, for most of the lamps tested, between eight to 14 visits occurring over a 24 to 42 month period would be required in order to reach the amount of joules necessary for DNA damage to occur.

In discussing the study results, the lead researcher, Dr. Lyndsay R. Shipp, noted that, while there was a theoretical risk, it was a very low risk.

Still concerned about the amount of DNA damage you might sustain through the use of nail salon UV lamps, but don’t want to forego getting the occasional gel manicure? The study’s researchers suggest two possible preventive measures. One is applying sunscreen to your hands before your gel manicure, and the other is wearing UV-protective gloves with the fingertips cut off, so that only your nails are exposed to the UVA rays. And of course, if you’re getting a regular, non-gel manicure, it’s probably safer to dry your nails with a regular nail drying fan or let your nails air-dry.