Home Fashion Show Can gel nail lamps damage your hands and cause skin cancer?

Can gel nail lamps damage your hands and cause skin cancer?

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Can gel nail lamps damage your hands and cause skin cancer?
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It’s important to protect your hands properly (Picture: Metro.co.uk / Getty / Manisafe London)

Last week, I was getting my nails done when a woman came in and sat next to me. She pulled out a pair of gloves from her bag and put them on.

Recall that she put gloves on to get her nails done.

I was confused to say the least. But then I realized that the gloves she was wearing had a missing fingertips.

These were intended to protect her hands against the UV rays of a nail lamp. The holes at each end were made to allow the manicurist easy access to her nails.

My mind was blown. As I sat there, suffering the burning feeling that happens when the gel is applied too thickly in silence, I realised I’d never considered whether these lamps could be doing my skin any damage – despite going semi-regularly to get my nails done.

I’m not alone. Gel nails are big business. A study from 2016 found that British women spend £161 million a year collectively on nails. And it’s likely that this figure is higher now, with nail salons popping up all over the country and gel nails feeling commonplace, rather than being for a special occasion.

But, can they cause any skin damage?

In short, yes.

How nail laces can age your skin

We have to start with ageing.

The thought of ageing skin is often associated with the face. However, all skin ages. Hands are more susceptible to sun damage than other body parts. Ageing can be affected by many factors.


Illustration of someone getting their nails done

It is still not clear how much the UV light affects skin. (Picture by Getty Images/iStockphoto).

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‘The skin on the hands, like skin elsewhere on the body, undergoes both intrinsic and extrinsic ageing,’Says plastic surgeon and expert on skin cancer Dr Paul Banwell

‘Extrinsic ageing is caused by environmental factors such as sun exposure, chemicals and smoking’, and will directly affect the epidermis and dermal layers leading to issues such as uneven pigmentation and premature ageing.’

They also have manicures to worry about, with gel nail varnish cured with a UV lamp to prolong its life.

‘The degree the UV light affects the skin is still up for debate,’explains Candice Quinn from MANISAFE London. ‘Because gel nail lamps only rose in popularity over the past decade, there are limited research studies for medical professionals to provide advice from.’

‘However, as all nail lamps are required to emit wavelengths of light from the UVA spectrum to cure the gel polish, they can contribute to ageing of the hand’s skin.

‘Although UVA rays are not as intense as UVB rays that are responsible for burning, they penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, called the dermis and cause damage to the DNA and collagen of the skin with cumulative (repeated) exposure.

‘This type of damage to the skin cells leads to wrinkles, dull-looking and sagging skin, and hyperpigmentation (a.k.a. age spots). These are mostly preventable if we protect our skin from UVA rays.’

Adverse reactions

Exposure to UV light and gel polishes can cause skin problems. Dr. Sasha Dhoat Stratum Dermatology Clinics.

He says: ‘As well as causing photo-ageing in your hands, cumulative UV exposure can develop allergic contact dermatitis to acrylates in gel – causing an eczema-like reaction, redness, peeling, sore fingers and even eyelid eczema from transfer.’

Can getting your nails done cause skin cancer?

So, is it possible for skin cancer to be caused by exposure? In theory, yes – although the risk is relatively low.

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‘Repeated exposure to the lamps can absolutely cause cumulative damage to the skin over the years,’Dr Banwell explains.

‘Most cases of skin cancer are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, tanning beds, or sunlamps so, yes, repeated exposure to the gel lamps without sun protection could indeed lead to skin cancer.’

Current research indicates that there is a low risk of skin cancer when using nail lamps.

‘There have been many studies of the causes and risks from these devices and the risk is very low. however still a risk,’Says Bruce Green, chartered scientist and founder SOS Serum Skincare.

‘The longer your expose your hands and nails to a UV lamp, the higher the chances of advanced skin reactions.’

Dermatologists and other skin experts recommend that you protect your skin when you get a gel manicure.

How can I keep my hands safe?When should I get my nails done


manihand glove

These gloves block 98% of UVA/UVB rays.

This is all pretty scary and something that we don’t generally pay enough attention to – there aren’t really any clear guidelines in terms of what is an acceptable amount of exposure, for someone who is going regularly to get their nails done.

There are steps you can take to protect your skin.

Gel nails are best done with sunscreen

‘Protecting skin from the damaging UV rays is a key part in the battle against skin cancer,’ Dr Banwell explains.

‘Fortunately skin protection in the form of SPF is better and more advanced than ever before – however people continue to apply it too sparingly and not often enough.

‘Guidelines suggest you should apply around 1 teaspoon of sunscreen to each hand and make sure that you apply it to all areas including in between the fingers.’

It is difficult to know which SPF to choose. Dr Ophelia Veraitch, consultant dermatologist, says: ‘It’It is best to choose a broad-spectrum SPF as they protect against both UVA and UVB light.

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‘Apply it first thing in the morning with your usual skincare routine, and re-apply regularly throughout the day.

‘They should also have a star rating that indicates the UVA protection, the highest rating is five stars which I would always recommend looking for.

‘I would recommend using an SPF factor 30 during the winter and when indoors, and SPF50 for maximum protection in the summer.’

You should wear SPF when you go for a manicure. Yes, absolutely.

Protective gloves are worth the investment

Protect yourself further with protective gloves that block harmful rays.

These gloves, for example, are from MANISAFE LondonThese gloves are meant to be worn while gel polish is being applied and cured to protect your hands.

‘Our fingerless gloves are UPF 50+ rated, meaning they block out over 98% of UVA + UVB rays, which is the gold standard for UV and sun protection,’Candice, the founder of the company, explains.

‘By blocking the UV rays from reaching your skin, you are helping protect them from the DNA and collagen damage that can occur to the deeper layers of your skin (the dermis) from UVA ray exposure.’

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