Researchers at the University of California, San Diego are issuing a new warning to those who indulge in gel manicures at the nail salon.
In a study published this week, researchers link ultraviolet lamps, commonly used to cure and dry gel nail polish, to skin cancer, cell death and potentially irreversible DNA damage.
Many Americans are aware of the dangers of indoor tanning beds, such as skin cancer and premature aging. Ultraviolet lamps used in tanning salons are in the same wavelength of radiation found in lamps in nail salons.
Dermatologist Dr Muneeb Shah is known as “Derm Doctor” on TikTok, where he shares tips for taking care of your skin safely and preventing cancer. After contracting skin cancer himself, Shah urges others to avoid tanning beds. “I’ve been to the tanning bed hundreds of times,” Shah says. “Now that I know what I know today, I obviously wouldn’t do that.”
What is ultraviolet light?
Ultraviolet light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that affects the skin in different ways, depending on its wavelength.
UVA light is the most dangerous of the spectrum, ranging from 315 to 400 nanometers. It’s what’s found in sunlamps, indoor tanning beds, and nail polish dryers.
“While UVA is found in sunlight, most of the environmental toxicity of UVA has been attributed to the use of commercial products, such as tanning beds,” the UC San Diego study says. .
This form of ultraviolet light is classified as a carcinogen and can lead to skin cancers like melanoma, premature aging and eye damage, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the association. Experts say about one in five Americans will develop the disease in their lifetime.
The association says melanoma rates have “rapidly increased” over the past 30 years.
“DNA is damaged”
Researchers in San Diego found that UV nail lamps emitted ultraviolet wavelengths between 340 and 395 nanometers, approaching the highest and most dangerous point in the radiation spectrum.
“We saw several things: First, we saw that the DNA was damaged,” said Ludmil Alexandrov, a UC San Diego professor and study author. “We also found that some DNA damage is not repaired over time and leads to mutations after each exposure with a UV nail polish dryer. Finally, we saw that exposure can cause mitochondrial dysfunction, which can also lead to additional mutations.
Alexandrov said the researchers looked at patients with skin cancers and saw the same patterns of mutations seen in damaged cells.
Should that stop someone from getting a gel manicure?
This research shows that nail polish lamps may be riskier than previously thought – but should that stop someone from getting a gel manicure?
“Our experimental results and previous evidence strongly suggest that radiation emitted from UV nail polish dryers can cause hand cancers and that UV nail polish dryers, similar to tanning beds, may increase the risk of early-onset skin cancer,” the researchers wrote. .
However, they point out that future research is needed to get a more accurate risk assessment.
“It is likely that such studies will take at least a decade to complete and then inform the general public,” the researchers write.
Alexandrov said cosmetic devices are generally marketed as safe to use and this is the first time the potential risk has been studied.
“To the best of our knowledge, no one has actually studied these devices and how they affect human cells at the molecular and cellular level until now,” he said.
How can I protect myself at the nail salon?
So what can you do to protect your hands and nails at the salon?
The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests using UVA/UVB sunscreen on hands before getting a gel manicure. This can help protect against UV light. However, using sunscreen will not eliminate the risk of sublingual squamous cell carcinoma, which can appear under the fingernail.
Experts also suggest air-drying nails to completely avoid UV exposure or wearing fingerless gloves.
To read the UC San Diego study in full, click here.
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