GMA: Are Gel Manicures Safe? Can They Cause Cancer?

Are Gel Manures Safe?Apr 12, 2012 – Good Morning America featured a report by ABC’s Elisabeth Leamy on the Pros and Cons of the new, trendy Gel Manicures.  Even though they cost twice as much as a regular manicure, they are increasing in popularity. That’s because they are suppose to last twice as long.  So Elisabeth Leamy decided to find out if they really did last longer and she also explored some of the growing concerns regarding the safety of the drying lamp used during these manicures.

Elisabeth reports that the gel manicure is suppose to be shinier and is suppose to last longer.  They say you can go up to two weeks with no chipping.  It has a patent leather gleam that dries almost instantly.  That seems to be the big draw for its popularity.  The gel manicure has a different formula than regular nail polish.  You normally get four coats and between each coat your nails cure under an ultraviolet light.  It’s the UV light that has people concerned.

One user shared her story.  She said her nails always look beautiful that’s why she was hooked on the gel manicure.  She was regularly getting gel manicures but after six months she noticed the backs of her hands looked older and she was getting brown spots all over them.  She went to dermatologist, Dr. Bruce Katz.  The doctor told her the brown spots were from the ultraviolet light in the nail drying lamps.

Dr. Katz says those little light boxes actually contain the same ultraviolet light that is used in tanning beds.  And tanning beds have been associated with melanoma. You don’t see brown spots where the sun does not shine even in older women.  So it’s very likely that these spots are premature aging of the hands due to ultraviolet damage.

During one gel manicure,  you put your hands under the ultraviolet light between each coat four different times for a total of about five minutes.

What do the Experts Say?

Elisabeth Leamy reported that many nail industry scientists agree that the type of light is the same as used in tanning beds, but they say the strength of the light is totally different.

Doug Schoon, co-Chair, NMC, Professional Beauty Association says that light boxes are obviously not like tanning beds.  When you use the lamps, your fingers don’t get tanned or burned.

A nail industry study co-authored by Doug Schoon and conducted by Lighting Science,  an independent lab in Arizona, estimated the UV exposure from getting a gel manicure every two weeks amounted to an extra two minutes in the sun every day.

However, a study published in the Archives of Dermatology concluded that “further investigation is warranted to see if UV nail lamps can cause skin cancer.”

Regardless of who’s right, Elisabeth says that dermatologists agree that there is a simple solution.  Wear sunscreen on your hands when you go for the manicure!

And that’s what she did.  She brought her sunscreen and went to get the gel manicure herself to find out what all the buzz is about.  She got regular polish on one hand and the gel manicure on the other.  After her nails were done she couldn’t tell which one was the regular polish and which one was the gel.  But she was told that she would tell the difference after a couple of days.  So, for the next few days she did her normal daily activities of washing dishes, driving to work, and typing on the computer.

And after those few days she sat down with Good Morning America’s co-host,  Robin Roberts, to assess her manicure. Robin clearly saw nicks and chips on the regular nail polish, while the gel manicure looked like Elisabeth just came out of the salon. So gel manicures do hold up.

But a few words of advice from Elisabeth Leamy…

Those drying light boxes emit the UVA type rays,  so you need a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect your hands against that type of ray.  Also some regular manicures use those same drying lamps, so it might be a good idea to always use sunscreen before any manicure.

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