Skin Cancer Risk Increases With The Use Of UV Nail Dryers Of Gel Nail Polish

Skin Cancer

A small new laboratory study has been made and while the results aren’t fully conclusive just yet, findings may convince people to think twice when getting their nails done. Or, at least take basic precautions before headed out.

That’s because recent experiments with human and mouse skin cells showed that constant and repeated exposure to UVA light that come from gel nail dryers damaged skin’s DNA.

While there’s no denying that gel manicures have become extremely popular nowadays and people go to salons for this, they need to rethink their options. Yes, this kind of manicure lasts longer when compared to the traditional varnish ones. However, a small laboratory study published January 17 in Nature Communications saw how repeated exposure to UV light from these elevate skin cancer risk. The findings actually go against previous research that showed how safe they were.

“I definitely did not expect these results,” says Maria Zhivagui, PhD. She is the lead author of the study and has a postdoctoral researcher at UC San Diego. She specializes on cellular and molecular medicine. “These machines are widely marketed as safe, even by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). … I got very worried and have stopped using gel manicure just to be safe and take as much precaution as possible.”

People have already been educated with tanning beds and how skin cancer becomes a risk with prolonged ultraviolet (UV) exposure. Why then the same claim cannot be made for UV nail dryers? These expose the hands and nails to UV light for about 10 minutes for every use.

Well, people have assumed otherwise because first and foremost, tanning beds emit both UVA and UVB radiation. On the other hand, UV nail dryers emit only UVA radiation. Researchers have done an extensive study on the impact of UVB rays on skin, but “no study has evaluated the large-scale effect of UVA light from cosmetic devices as a potential carcinogen,” claimed Zhivagui.

Cell Samples Saw DNA Damage After Exposure to UVA

An extensive systematic research review published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology in July 2020 saw that there had been zero reported cases of skin cancer in those 40 years old or younger with a history of gel manicures. That was why researchers said that gel-manicure nail dryers posed “little to no carcinogenic risk.”

However, it was different in the new study. The researchers approach the issue differently. They looked into the effects of various levels of UVA exposure on different cell samples that they had. They collected mouse cells, human foreskin cells, and adult human skin cells. They exposed each to UVA radiation one, two, or three times for as much as 20 minutes. They then evaluated the cells 2 days after.

The researchers saw signs of cell damage and cell changes. This was indicative of a possible cancer risk when exposed to UVA light. They also found elevated levels of reactive oxygen species. This accelerate skin aging, brings about cell death, and encourages growth for cancerous tumors.

How to Reduce the Risk of Skin Cancer From UV Nail Dryers

This study from UC San Diego does come with several limitations. The study was done on human and animal cells in a laboratory setting. This doesn’t necessarily translate to real-world risk. Future research should need to conclusively prove that UV nail dryers cause skin cancer, said Zhivagui.

However, Nazanin Saedi, MD, a dermatologist and a clinical associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, said that it’s fine get gel manicures so long as precautions are taken. While the finding is “concerning” and also said, “Before the study, there [were] case reports of squamous cell carcinoma [a type of skin cancer] that developed on people who frequently get gel manicures.” It also must be noted that she wasn’t involved in the research.

If you want to lower the risk of skin cancer, you may need to lessen getting gel manicures, said Dr. Saedi — especially when you have fairer skin because you face further skin cancer risks. She also said that patients may want to try dip powder manicures as an alternative.

So, if you still want to opt for the gel polish, she recommended taking extra precautions such as applying SPF15 or higher sunscreen to the hands. You may also want to use protective gloves that are designed to protect the skin from UV rays. Whatever the case may be, the skin found around the nail bed is still at risk for skin cancer since it’s impossible to constantly protect this area.