A woman admiring hands after gel a manicure with UV nail polish dryer

UV Nail Polish Dryers Increase Cancer Risk, New Study Finds

Beauticians, cosmetologists, and professional manicurists apply gel nail polish on your hands as part of a manicure treatment. Most women prefer gel nail polish because it lasts longer than regular nail polish. In fact, if done right, it can last up to four weeks. Gel polish offers the opportunity to use unique nail art designs or decorations. Gel-manicured nails also look more beautiful and natural with a glossy finish. However, applying gel polish requires ultraviolet (UV) nail polish dryers, which a new study now reveals increases skin cancer risk.

What Did the New Study Find?

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The new study disclosed that UV nail polish dryers cause DNA damage and somatic mutations, often linked to cancer.

The researchers further reported that long-term use or exposure to these UV nail polish dryers increases the chances of developing skin cancer in the affected region.

The results are consistent with expert opinion from the American Academy of Dermatology Association, which acknowledged that gel manicures increase skin cancer risk if done frequently.

Reports also indicate that gel manicures cause premature skin aging. These reports support the recent findings that UV nail polish dryers can induce DNA damage, activate somatic mutations, and act as precursors for skin cancer.

The cancer risk increases because UV nail polish dryers emit ultraviolet light within the range of 340-395 nm. This UV light falls in the wavelength range (315–400 nm) that the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers a Group 1 carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).

The recent findings cause more concern after showing that UV light exposure from nail polish dryers can penetrate deep into the skin and damage cells and their genetic material (DNA).

The damage worsened every time the cells got exposed to these UV-emitting devices. For instance, a single 20-minute session caused 20-30% cell death. Exposing skin cells to three consecutive sessions increased the cell death to about 65-70%.

As per the study, the damaged DNA did not self-repair. The mutations observed in UV-exposed cells further showed patterns consistent with those in skin cancer patients.

How Can You Reduce the Cancer Risk Associated With UV Nail Polish Dryers?

A woman curing gel nail polish with UV nail polish dryer

1. Do away with a gel manicure

If you want to eliminate the risk of skin cancer, you should avoid gel nail polish and go back to regular nail polish. This option is much better if you do not want to take your chances. It is also a good choice for women with high skin cancer risk.

2. Reduce the frequency of gel manicures

The risk of skin cancer increases depending on the frequency with which you apply gel nail polish. Therefore, reducing the number of times that you do gel manicures can decrease UV light exposure and skin cancer risk.

3. Wear sunscreen

You can also wear sunscreen if you do not intend to stop applying gel nail polish. Water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 and above can help protect the skin on your hands against UV light from nail polish dryers.

Applying sunscreen before a gel manicure helps block UV radiation and reduces the risk of cell damage, premature skin aging, and skin cancer.

4. Wear opaque gloves

Wearing opaque gloves can further protect the skin on your hands against UV light. However, as much as gloves safeguard against ultraviolet radiation, not every type offers the same level of protection.

A study comparing latex gloves with vinyl gloves found that the former absorbed 76% of the UV radiation, while the latter only absorbed 33%. Therefore, you should go for latex gloves instead of vinyl gloves.

Nitrile gloves can also help protect the skin on your hands against UV light from gel nail polish dryers.

The gloves will need to be snipped off to allow access to the nails requiring a gel manicure.