Manicure Health Hazards

Hand in UV light gel manicure

I must admit I’ve become rather dependent on my bi-weekly indulgence of a chip-proof gel manicure. What woman doesn’t want a manicure that stays perfect through laundry, dishes, office days and working out? However, after having a melanoma at the ripe old age of 17, I was extremely alarmed when research by the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that this long lasting manicure could pose skin cancer risks. I know that I should apply sunscreen before going out in the sun and should avoid lying out and tanning beds, but…I love my gel-manicured hands. What’s a girl to do?

I turned to Betty Davis, MD, a Mohs dermatologist and chief medical officer with Banner Medical Group (BMG), to understand how I could best protect my skin while getting a gel manicure. Betty first explained to me that the UV light that sets the gel is what can cause the damage. She goes on to say that UV lamps vary greatly by intensity and there is no regulation, so it can be difficult to know how much danger you are putting yourself in.

So, if I’m going to continue getting gel manicures, what is the best way to protect myself? Kirsten Flynn, MD, also a BMG dermatologist, recommends wearing 30+ sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to block UVAs. Remember, put the sunscreen on right before the gel polish is applied to ensure you’re getting full protection.

For this skin cancer prone girl, I think it’s time to put my love of manicures aside in the name of my health.

If you do have a spot you’re worried about, get in to see a dermatologist right away. The best defense against all types of skin cancer is to catch it early. Click here to learn how to perform a skin examination.



**Update: Thank you to our readers, who pointed out that an LED light for gel manicures is a safer option. Dr. Davis confirmed that there is a reduced risk of skin cancer when LED lights are used.
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