PSA for Gel Manicure Lovers

I originally posted this on Reddit about a week ago but it got caught in the spam filter thanks to the number of links I provided.  As a result it was mostly missed.  I still feel like UV lamp safety is important so I’m posting it here.

PSA for Gel Manicure Lovers: Practice Skin Safety with UV Lamps

It seems like there are a lot of posts about home gel manicures lately, with UV lamps being used to cure topcoats. This may seem like obvious information but I want to share in the hopes it keeps us all mindful of our health.

UV lamps used in nail salons and home applications emit UVA rays, just like tanning beds. Which means your risk for developing skin cancer increases every time you use them. Risks include basal cell carcinomasquamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. They also increase your risk of actinic keratotis, which can develop into skin cancer.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  1. Apply a broad spectrum sunblock to your hands before doing your manicure, being careful to massage it into the skin around your nails that is most likely to be exposed to UV rays. Be sure to cover thoroughly, including your fingertips.
  2. Wear fingerless gloves while you work to further protect your hands from UV exposure.
  3. Limit your UV lamp usage and consider doing standard manicures unless you have a specific event approaching that requires a hardened topcoat. Try to keep it under 2 treatments per month. Squamous cell carcinoma has been diagnosed in women who did UV-cured manicures just twice a month.
  4. Protect your eyes. These lamps are shielded and should be low-risk for eye exposure, but just be mindful that UV exposure can be damaging to your eyes, and is a leading cause of cataracts.

Sources: Archives of DermatologyNational Library of Medicine

Also be mindful of the sources you rely on for safety informatin. For example, a quick search calls up some info on Beauty, which tells you that UV lamps are no big deal.

We could compare the UV light exposure for an entire year in the gel light as being comparable to 32 to 49 hours of UV light exposure to the hands (two hands combined). This would translate to about two weeks of play, 7 days a week, 2 hours each day. Are the doctors advising you to not go outside during summer time to get some exercise? Of course not, because it is healthy for you to get your exercise.

How about going outside to fish? Let’s take the effect of the water’s reflective properties on the skin, nearly doubling the UV light exposure to a fisherman. Are they going to start advising people to stop fishing? I sure hope not. The last time I fished, I was on the water for 6 hours in Florida. That is similar to having my hands in the UV gel light for 10 hours continuously. What would the doctors say about that???

Well actually, what doctors would say is that you should wear a high SPF broad spectrum sunblock when playing outside, and that 2 hours of unprotected sun exposure every day for two weeks would absolutely increase your risk for developing melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer. They would make the same sunscreen recommendation to those who fish and spend time on the water. In fact, these watersports lovers are commonly people who are treated for actinic keratotis and basal/squamous cell carcinoma.

I apologize if this sounds like a lecture. We all love our manis and we love staying chip-free. This PSA isn’t about avoiding UV-cured techniques, it’s about protecting your health so you can enjoy your hardened lacquers without increasing your risk of a cancer diagnosis later.

(for the record, melanoma can develop in the nail bed in very rare cases, but this is not thought to be the result of UV exposure)


About Smapte

I crochet. I crochet a lot. My speciality is amigurumi dolls based on pop culture entertainment, such as LOST, Star Trek, Mad Men and Firefly. I also crochet beanie hats with food items on them such as pancakes, sushi, burgers, spaghetti, or whatever sounds hat-worthy. Visit me at or

Posted on April 9, 2012, in Misc and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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