Beware of UV lights in nail salons


Manicure fanatics, take caution. A new study reinforces what’s frequently been mentioned in the past which is that there’s a link between getting manicures and developing skin cancer.

Specifically, the focus is on nail dryers used in beauty salons, which use ultraviolet light to hasten the process. Hands are put under the dryer once nails are coated with the polish or treatment of choice, and studies show the process can damage skin.

Seventeen UV lamps were assessed in a Georgia Regents University study to determine the dose of UV light emitted (1). While skin cancer occurs at approximately 60 joules per centimeter squared and the light emitted in this study’s findings ranged to up to only eight, researchers say it’s the frequency in which people are getting manicures that ups their chances of skin cancer.

Frequency of UV nail light exposure speeds up skin problems

Eight to 14 visits using the nail-drying UV light over the course of 2 to 3 years seems to be the magic number as to what will lead to skin damage. Considering that many people have weekly manicure habits, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that the onset of skin damage can occur much sooner than what the study suggests.

Indeed, previous research makes the case, including the finding of a 48 year-old woman who had repeated UV nail light exposure and ultimately developed squamous cell cancers on the backs of her hands (the portion facing the light, since the hands are faced palm side down under the lamps) (2).

Aside from potentially developing skin cancer, other changes to the body can also take place.

Chris Adigun of New York University’s Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology explains that frequent use of salon or at-home nail dryers, as well as tanning beds, can also create changes that include everything from developing dark skin spots and premature wrinkling to getting brittle nails. Ironically, these are the results of people attempting to improve their appearance. In the end, they are ruining their appearance and their overall health.

Tips to reduce UV light exposure at the beauty salon

For those who feel they can’t skip their manicure habit or let nails dry the old-fashioned way (naturally, with air), experts have suggestions to keep skin safe.

For example, one way to help keep harmful UV light at bay is to forgo moisturizing lotions used by the salon and instead, bring sunscreen. Apply to hands before nails are worked on so that they are better protected under the drying light.

Others suggest bringing UV-protective gloves and snipping off the fingertips in order to protect the hands while allowing the fingernails to be treated.

Finally, choose salons that have non UV-light nail drying methods in place such as small fans that are placed over hands.

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