Gel manicures have quickly become popular for women when getting their nails done because they are convenient, time-consuming and last longer than a regular manicure, but that doesn’t mean it’s the safest. According to a new study, the ultraviolet (UV) lights used in the nail dryers typically used for gel manicures, can kill cells and lead to cancer-causing mutations in cells.
What the study shows
The study, which was published in Nature Communications, analyzed cells in two different conditions of UV exposure. Cells with acute exposure had two 20-minute sessions under the UV dryers with an hour break in between. Cells with chronic exposure had one 20-minute session under the UV dryers for three consecutive days.
Researchers found that one 20-minute session of exposure to the UV dryers resulted in 20 to 30% cell death, while three consecutive 20-minute sessions of exposure resulted in 65 to 70% cell death.
In the remaining cells, the exposure resulted in mutations that are typically seen in skin cancer.
“We saw multiple things: first, we saw that DNA gets damaged,” Ludmil Alexandrov, bioengineering professor at UC San Diego and study author, said in a statement. “We also saw that some of the DNA damage does not get repaired over time, and it does lead to mutations after every exposure with a UV-nail polish dryer. Lastly, we saw that exposure may cause mitochondrial dysfunction, which may also result in additional mutations. We looked at patients with skin cancers, and we see the exact same patterns of mutations in these patients that were seen in the irradiated cells.”
RELATED: Are Gel Manicures Really Safe?
The increasing concern surrounding UV lights
This isn’t the first time UV lights have raised suspicion. According to researchers from the University of California San Diego there have been several studies done warning of exposure to UV lights in tanning beds because they have proven to be carcinogenic.
The possible harmful effects of nail polish dryers, which use a different spectrum of UV light, have not been studied.
“If you look at the way these devices are presented, they are marketed as safe, with nothing to be concerned about,” Alexandrov explained. “But to the best of our knowledge, no one has actually studied these devices and how they affect human cells at the molecular and cellular levels until now.”
So how great is your risk?
There have been many cases of rare cancers developing in fingers from people who frequently get gel manicures using UV-nail polish dryers, like pageant contestants and estheticians, according to researchers.
Researchers believe more data, that spans over numerous years, is needed in order to “accurately quantify the risk for skin cancer of the hand in people regularly using UV-nail polish dryers.”
RELATED: Post-Gel Manicure Nail Repair
Still, if you want to be on the safe side and make a switch, these healthier alternatives to a gel manicure may be the solution you were looking for:
- Acrylic Nails (Widely available & more affordable)
- Press on Nails (Perfect if you are allergic to gel or acrylic)
- Dip Powder (A perfect replacement for gel polish)
- Polygel Nails (Very similar to gel nails but easier to work)
- Natural Manicures (Safest & Healthiest)