Nails are one of the most sensitive parts of the body. But not many people realize how much harm you could be doing to your hands and nails by using UV driers.
Nails are one of the most sensitive parts of the body. But not many people realize how much harm you could be doing to your hands and nails by using UV driers.
Photo Credit: Used with permission by Annie Allen

Harmful side-effects of UV lights in nail salons

One way of pampering yourself is a manicure. Treat yourself to something solely for the purpose of looks, design, creative expression, etc. When getting your nails done, it’s all out of your hands, quite literally. Some people might not even notice what is happening to them during the process.

Gianna Diaz, a high school senior and Alyssa Lupo, a high school sophomore, both agreed that they did not think about the process while getting their nails done. Diaz gets her nails done every 3 weeks and Lupo gets them done once a month. With both interviewees having a constant set of nails on, neither had any knowledge about the dangers the UV lights can cause. Ultraviolet (UV) lights are often used to speed-dry regular manicures and set gel manicures. While they are useful, they might do more harm than good. 

According to NPR, Researchers from the University of California San Diego and the University of Pittsburgh conducted a study of UV nail dryers . The conducted the same tests three times and concluded that “chronic use of the machines can damage DNA and cause mutations in human cells that could increase the risk of skin cancer.” (Photo Credit: Used with permission by Annie Allen)

What’s the harm?

These lamps used in nail salons are typically called UV or LED lamps and both emit UV radiation. Predominantly UV rays have been linked to increasing the risk of skin cancer. Over-exposure to UV radiation from the sun increases the risk of skin cancer. Ultraviolet rays can also age skin prematurely. Ultraviolet rays hurt the skin in excessive ways because they are able to penetrate the skin deeply. These rays damage collagen, the basic building blocks within the skin, and elastin, which helps to keep the skin looking younger. 

Bulb strength in these UV lamps often have a wide range of variety. A wide range of bulbs that emit vastly different amounts of ultraviolet light could be used in any nail salon. The bulbs have multiple different wattage outputs and emit varying amounts of radiation. Higher-wattage ultra-violet lamps emit more ultraviolet radiation. 

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According to NPR, researchers from the University of California San Diego and the University of Pittsburgh have conducted three rounds of testing on if UV nail dryers cause cancer, they claim it will likely take at least a decade to complete and to subsequently inform the general public.

Maria Zhivagui of  UC San Diego research team investigating the UV dryers, explained to Dermatology Times that “Researchers found that a single 20-minute session resulted in 20-30% cell death, while three consecutive sessions caused 65-70% of the exposed cells to die. UV exposure also caused mitochondrial and DNA damage in the remaining cells.”

How to Stay Safe

Brief exposure is a key component of staying clear from the risk of skin cancer. For a short period of time, nail salon customers are exposed to the ultraviolet lamps. This time is just long enough to dry wet nail polish. In order to produce skin damage, numerous visits and excess ultraviolet light use would have to occur.  

Dermatology Times advises gel regulars to protect their skin with “broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a 30 or higher SPF” and dark fingerless gloves.

Both interviewees, Alyssa Lupo and Gianna Diaz have no knowledge of a history of skin cancer in their families. No concerns were raised for both of the interviewees during the process. Diaz inferred that the process smells good and she has always used the UV light with no second thought about it. Lupo thought of the process in the way that the nail technicians were very talented and paid attention to their detail, rather than how the UV light could damage her skin. 

It is best to be better safe than sorry when it comes to something as important as your skin. Simply applying sunscreen or UV protection can make a difference over time. While UV lights from nail salons raise minimum concerns, there are still harmful properties coming out of the UV rays. Over time this small amount of exposure can add up and cause real harm to you. Applying sunscreen before as a precaution is the best way to ensure as little damage as possible.

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About the Contributor
Bridget Lavelle
Bridget Lavelle, Reporter
Bridget Lavelle is currently a senior at Colonia High School. Lavelle is a competitive cheerleader and a member of the game team cheerleading squad. As well as sports, Lavelle is also involved with the student council as the Senior Class Vice President. Lavelle is a member of the National Honor Society as well as Rho Khappa, the Honor Society for Social Studies. Lavelle often hangs out with her friends and family and enjoys going to school and professional sporting events. Lavelle hopes to attend a 4-year college with a major in Engineering at the conclusion of her journey at Colonia High School.

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