Nail salons and beauty magazines are buzzing about gel manicures. Customers love them because they dry almost instantly, shine like patent leather and don’t chip for two weeks. Salons get to charge more than double the price of a traditional manicure and then have repeat business when the customer returns to have the polish removed.
But gel manicure clients must sit with their hands under ultraviolet lamps for up to 10 minutes to cure, or dry, the polish. Those minutes under the bluish-purple light might make you wonder: Is this safe?
A 2009 article in a medical journal looked at two cases of women who reported repeated exposure to UV nail lamps and developed skin cancer on the backs of their hands. (The lamps are also used to set acrylic nails and dry traditional manicures and pedicures, but in about half the time.)
“Artificial UV light does elevate your risk for developing skin cancer” and for premature aging of the skin, says Anna M. Bender, a dermatologist at Johns Hopkins University. “So people could use a sunscreen to try to block the UV from their surrounding skin.”