If you are like me, you have most likely spent time in a nail salon at one point in your life. Maybe you had a family vacation to the beach or a school dance you and all your friends got ready for together. Lately, I have found any excuse to justify getting a shellac manicure because they are long lasting and do not damage the nails. However, after reading an article in the New York Times about the health risks of the lamps salons use to dry the polish I will be doing a lot more research on manicures before I go back.
Ultraviolet light is emitted from sunlight, tanning beds and even some indoor heat laps. This light transmits different levels of radiation which damages skin cells by causing mutations in the cell’s DNA. The American Cancer Society has labeled UV light as a carcinogen (cancer causing substance) and anyone who exposes themselves to this light is told of the possible dangerous repercussions.
Nail salon dryers, which are those devices that shine blue-colored light onto the nails, also use UV light to speed up the drying time and to help harden the polish. Although the UV light from these dryers is often in low concentrations, recent studies have found that the radiation that is emitted can cause skin damage, or even melanoma, a form of cancer, in as few as eight visit to the nail salon. Researchers from Georgia Regents University found that these visits could cause noticeable DNA damage to skin in as little as 24 months.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell if your skin will be damaged by going to the salon since not everyone who lays outside in the sun or in a tanning booth develops cancer or other skin aliments. Everyone reacts differently to UV light depending on their biology and susceptibility to cancer, along with the fact that the UV light varies on the lamp and the bulb used. Dermatologists suggest that you limit getting gel manicures to once a month and to opting for traditional manicures which do not need the UV light to dry properly.
This article was not meant to scare you into never getting your nails done again. Because like I said, the UV light that is emitted is extremely low and varies from place to place. According to a report from Massachusetts General Hospital, it would take 250 years of weekly gel manicures to equal the exposure of just one session of an FDA-approved UV phototherapy lamp, which is the device that doctors consider relatively safe.
Your best bet to keeping your skin healthy and still rocking a cute manicure is to take some extra time and let your nails dry naturally. You can also apply sunscreen to your skin right before heading to the salon if you know you are going to use the UV dryer. Another good idea would be to research and ask what kind of light bulbs your favorite salon uses. While the risk of nail salons causing any serious skin damage is quite low, it is always good to know the potential risks and what safety measures you should take to keep yourself healthy.