Are gel manicure lamps actually dangerous?
Gel manicures have endless appeal: they look flawless and shiny, don’t chip easily, last decently, and you won’t have trouble finding a nail salon that offers them. But like most types of manicures, there are downsides.
It just so happens that one of the most widely-reported drawbacks of gels is that they actually might not be safe (read: pose a cancer risk) because of the UV light your fingers are exposed to during the process.
But is there any truth to this claim? Keep reading to find out.
How do gel manicures work?
Unlike traditional nail lacquer which simply air-dries, the polish is set with ultraviolet (UV) light – the same radiation that comes from the sun and tanning beds – to ensure a long-lasting, durable finish. Referred to as "curing", this process turns the liquid gel into a hard coating in under a minute. But at what cost?
Are gel manicures dangerous?
The reason why UV nail lamps have caused such a stir in the industry is because the UVA rays emitted from them (the type responsible for skin cancer and premature skin ageing) are much stronger than what you would get from sun exposure. Though your hands are placed under the lamp for a short time, essentially this means that if you're getting regular gel manis, these brief bursts of exposure could lead to skin damage in the long run.
There's another thing – the notion that LED nail lamps are safer is a total misconception. Despite many people believing LED lamps don't use UVA rays to cure, or use lower levels, they actually have a higher intensity of radiation, hence the shorter setting times.
So are gel manicures dangerous? Some studies indicate that too much exposure to UV light from manicures could result in skin cancer, while other research suggests the risk is minimal. In short, we don't know for sure, but there is still some cause for concern.
"There's enough for us to recommend to patients to protect their skin," dermatologist Dr Chris Adigun told the Daily Mail.
How should you protect your hands?
Don't go quitting your gel habit just yet – there are some measures you can take to be on the safe side. The most common ways to protect yourself from skin damage and potentially skin cancer, are sunscreen and UV-resistant nail-less gloves.
Sunscreen has its limits – for one you would have to wait at least 20 minutes for it to be effective, and secondly all that goes into a manicure (getting your hands massaged, cuticles cut and so on) will likely wipe off it all off by the time it comes to cure the manicure.
While fingerless gloves definitely don't look glamorous, experts like Dr Adigun are quick to recommend them because they offer the best protection.
What's your favourite type of manicure?
Main image: @misspopnails