EXCLUSIVE: Can gel manicures you are in love with cause skin cancer? Experts explain | Health News

Are you in love with those pretty nails that you get after a gel manicure? This is the latest rage that fashionistas swear by. And why not? The nails look lovely and best of all, unlike regular nail polish, these are long-lasting and don’t chip off easily. However, a new study has caused concern among those who are in love with these manicures. In a study published in ‘Nature Communications’, researchers found that chronic use of the  UV-nail polish dryers used during a gel manicure can damage DNA and cause mutations in human cells that could increase the risk of skin cancer. So what’s the truth behind these claims? Zee News Digital spoke to dermatologists and cosmetologists about the issue. 

Gel manicure: Is the use of UV lamps dangerous?

If you have never got a gel manicure done or are unfamiliar with it, here’s the key issue – nails applied with gel nail polish are dried under UV lamps, which means they dry off almost instantly and are long-lasting. But it is this very process that has raised concerns.

Dr Sravya C. Tipirneni, Consultant Dermatologist, Cosmetologist & Trichologist at Manipal Hospitals in Bangalore, shares, “As we know, the UV nail drying lamps tend to “cure” or “dry” gel/acrylic nails and are commonly used in salons. But of late, their damaging effects are being debated. A grey area lies in the exposure of UV light on the hands leading to skin cancer (like melanoma) despite the intensive research available.”

A study found that one 20-minute session caused the death of 20–30% of cells and when three consecutive 20-minute sessions were done, 65% to 70% of cells died, Dr Tipirneni mentions. She adds the study also mentioned that the UV light caused mitochondrial/DNA damage causing mutations (like skin cancer) and the DNA damage may not get repaired with time. “This was recently even highlighted in a peer-reviewed journal ‘Nature Communications’ but more research is needed as a large-scale sample on humans is needed to be certain,” she said. As per experts, more studies will take time before something can be said for certain.

Dr Manasi Shirolikar, a consultant dermatologist, MBBS, DDVL, gives her opinion. She says, “These lamps produce ultraviolet rays, which, when exposed to, unprotected, penetrate the skin’s layer deeply. They can contribute to skin burns, and are being thought of as a potential threat that can cause skin cancer. UVA ray exposure is also linked to altering the DNA in your cells and damaging them. While some studies claim that short exposure, every 2 weeks, may not cause as much damage, the possibility remains. However, newer studies are now confirming the fact that the UV lamps can damage the DNA and mutate the cells to alter them to cancer cells.”

Also read: EXCLUSIVE: Can you get cancer again even after being declared cancer-free? Possibility, causes – what expert says

Precautions to take for gel manicure

Dr Shirolikar lists out some key points:

– First, only opt for a gel nail manicure if absolutely necessary. If you wish to still get them done on a regular basis, opt to space them out – at least at a 6-week interval.

– Apply a high quality, SPF 30 (or higher), PA+++ sunscreen all over your arms, on the parts that will be exposed to the UV rays, at least twenty to thirty minutes before exposure.

– In addition to your sunscreen application, cover the exposed skin too – there are many options, such as fingerless gloves (in fact, UV nail deflecting gloves for gel manicures are available online) that can be considered to minimise exposure.

– You can also opt for dip powders (which can also last several weeks, and are air-dried), or a high-quality gel nail paint (that does not need to be cured under a UV lamp) as alternatives to the gel nail paint, and manicure!

Dr Tipirneni further points out that the UV light used in tanning beds (280-400nm) is said to be carcinogenic. The UV nail dryers use UV light (340-395nm) of a different spectrum. “Nonetheless, the FDA suggests refraining the use of UV nail lamps if someone is using certain drugs/supplements/medication which makes them sensitive to UV rays,” she says, adding, “If done safely, cautiously, and in spaced out intervals following the above guidelines, UV lamps may be alright to get your nails done. But, if one is constantly using them to get their nails done, we would ask them to reconsider.”

There’s another problem with using gel nail polish constantly. They can’t be removed with spirits (usual nail polish remover) and the paint has to be scraped out by professionals. So it can cause damage to your nails and nail beds which can affect the growth and quality of the nails, making them brittle. As the experts point out, all in all, while gel manicures look pretty, and the paints are long-lasting, they run the risk of causing damage to you. You need not stop opting for them completely, but it’s important to tread with caution.

 Also read: Cancer is diagnosed more in patients with type 2 diabetes, claims study

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