UV Light for Acrylic Nails Might Cause Skin Cancer

fake-nails-monibela

“It’s like a mini tanning bed for your fingers. ”

Artifical nails are a $6.3 billion dollar industry. There are nearly 60,000 nail salons in the US — 5 times as many Starbucks! Many of these nail salons use UV light, which might increase the risk of skin cancer on your fingers.

Researchers from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas noticed that some of their patients with skin cancer on their fingers (an uncommon place to get skin cancer) reported having had UV light for artificial nails. Such UV light has been shown to damage cells’ DNA (the genetic code in all cells) and to cause mutations that lead to skin cancer.

There are several types of nails. The most popular is acrylic, a two part process where a liquid monomer is combined with a powder polymer. It hardens in seconds, but takes an hour for the final hardness to set. Ultraviolet light is used to speed up the hardening.

A second type of artificial nail is the UV-gel. These are more flexible and have a high-gloss finish than acrylics. As their name suggests, ultraviolet light is used to harden the nails.

UV light is also used for a topcoat sealant. Because artificial nails yellow from UV light (especially tanning booths), a top coat can be used to protect the nail. This topcoat is cured (or set) using UV light.

The amount of radiation that your fingers get from the nail treatment is comparable to what you would get in a tanning booth. Because nails are done every 2-4 weeks (one would hope), that can add up to a significant amount of UV exposure over years.

No large scale studies have been done to examine the danger of using UV light for nails, but these patients suggest that there is likely a risk, especially if you have fair skin or have a history of skin cancer.

Photo: Monibela (flickr)

9 thoughts on “UV Light for Acrylic Nails Might Cause Skin Cancer”

  1. Oh yay, just what I want to hear. *head desk* Skin cancer runs in my dad’s side of the family. In fact, my grandma died of a brain tumor they believe started out as skin cancer. And yet, I’m one of those “I don’t tan I BURN!” types. Oy vey.

    Well, I get my nails done maybe twice a year if that anyway. Just for special occastions.

  2. Dear Dr. Benabio,

    Is it true that the UV light emitted at nail salons is the same as that emitted by a tanning bed?

    According to dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, M.D. in the August 2008 issue of Oprah magazine,UVA light emitted by nail salon-type dryers is only 10-30 watts, which is significantly less than the 2400 watts or so emitted by a tanning bed.

    However, supposing Dr. Ciraldo is correct, is it possible for 10-30 watts to damage the nails in the manner suggested by the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center study?

  3. How can you compare tanning to a UV Gel process? People who tans would tan almost 2-3 times a week if not more. Your Acrylic Process is incorrect also. When Acrylics are applied onto nails, it does not require UV light to harden. The only thing to worry about acrylic nails are that some salons uses cheap liquid monomer that may contains a harmful chemical MMA (Methyl Methacrylate).

  4. Nail drying UV lights are lower wattage than body tanning UV lights but they are used on smaller region. You need to look at watts per square inch of skin not total watts. Of course the duration of the exposer matters too. In general you should minimize your exposure to UV light. Since nails will dry just fine without UV light why take the risk?

  5. MY NAME IS MUNNI IRONE AND I AM A BEAUTY SCHOOL TEACHER. I AM A SCIENCE MAJOR AND I HAVE BEEN DISAPPOINTED WITH THE TEXT BOOK AVAILABLE FOR THS STUDENTS.I JUST WROTE A TEXTBOOK ON MANICURING WITH THE HELP OF 14 PHYSICANS.
    NOW I WANT TO START A COSMETOGLOGY BOOK AND REALLY LOVE YOUR ARTICLE ON UL LIGHT AND IT WILL HELP OUR INDUSTRY BECUASE EDUCATORS ARE NOT EDUCATED WITH GREEN MOVEMENT. SO ARE THE STUDENTS.
    I HAD PUT MY OWN MONEY TO DO THE OTHER BOOKS TOO. I WANT TO TAKE MY INVESTMENT OUT AND SAVE EVERY PENNY TO START A BATTERED SHELTER IN GLENDORA. AND HELP POOR STUDENTS.MY HUSBAND PASSED AWAY I DON’T KNOW TOO MUCH ABOUT WHOM TO OBTAIN PERMISSION TO USE YOUR ARTICLE IN MY BOOK. OR I CAN JUST USE SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION.
    PLEASE HELP ME AND MY STUDENTS.
    THE BOOK NAME WILL BE” ULTIMATE NAIL GUIDE”
    I JUST BROKE MY GLASSED AND MY VISION IS NOT GOOD SORRY.

  6. If these lights are the same as what is in a tanning bed, why aren’t my fingers blistered?
    Had I been in a tanning bed for a comparable amount of time, I would at least be red. And I am not even browned. Sooo…. What am I missing?

  7. Oops. Should have read the other posters before posting my own.

  8. MY NAME IS SOPHIA RABANES AND I HAVE AM A LICENSED MANICURIST, COMETOLOGIST AND A THIRD GENERATION SALON OWNER. I HAVE BEEN IN THE BEAUTY BUSINESS FOR OVER THIRTY YEARS. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF CHEMINCALS USED IN THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY THAT ARE CARCINOGENS A QUICK TIP TIP TO USE NAIL POLISHES THAT ARE FORMALDEHYDE FREE- THIS CHEMICAL ACCUMILATES IN THE BODY AND THIS IS ALSO EMBALMING FLUID TO PRESEVE THE DEAD. A WORD TO THE WISE A LOT OF PRODUCTS CONTAIN THIS CHEMICAL AS A PERSEVATIVE.

Comments are closed.