Exposure to ultraviolet radiation is known to cause skin damage, including skin cancer. Now, new research has raised questions about the safety of nail dryers, which use UV light to dry and cure gel nail polish.
The study shows long wavelengths of ultraviolet light (UVA) from UV nail dryers can damage DNA and cause mutations in human cells that increase risk for skin cancer.
The Washington Post asked dermatologists what the finding means for people who get their nails done, whether UV nail dryers are safe and what precautions people can take when getting gel manicures and pedicures. Here’s their advice.
Is there a way to help prevent UV damage from nail dryers?
Some dermatologists recommend using a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen that is at least 50 SPF on the hands. Piliang suggested making sure it is also a physical blocker sunscreen, which contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that activates the lotion as soon as it is applied to the skin.
Other sunscreens, she said, may take longer to start protecting the skin, “so you may already have your manicure done before the other ingredients would be active.”
The sunscreen should be applied after the nail technician has finished soaking the hands or using other lotions or oils. Apply it just before the technician starts to paint the nails — ideally at least 20 minutes before exposure to UV light.
Sunscreen does not protect people from risks associated with UV exposure under the nail, such as the development of subungual squamous cell carcinoma, a rare cancer that is difficult to treat and affects the fingers or toes, Adam Friedman, professor and chair of dermatology at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, wrote in an email.