Are Gel Manicures Safe? Maybe, But Consider These Three Things Before Going Under The Lamp

You've probably heard by now that skin cancer concerns do surround gel manicures, due to the UV lights used to cure and harden the polish. We're always told to be concerned about UV exposure from the sun, which we can't avoid, so why the heck are we subjecting our hands to it for a manicure, which we choose to do? Well, some new research, as pointed out by Allure, suggests that the correlation between gel manicures and skin cancer might not be as serious as we once thought.

It has been widely held that using UV lights, which are also present in LED lamps, to harden polish not only increases skin cancer risk, but can cause hands to age faster. The hands do show age quickly, so why accelerate it?

Even so, research into nail drying lamps, published in JAMA Dermatology, notes that the risk is low from UV nail polish drying lamps, since the dose is small. The study examined 17 light sources from 16 salons in two locations and evaluated levels of radiation. They surmised that the risk was minimal.

I only do gel manicures when I have an event and need a mani to last and not chip, like for a trip or a wedding. I like the long-lasting nature, but the polish can get discolored or stained, and my cuticles get ragged and need a weekly trim, soak, and conditioning, and the removal process is murder on nail beds.

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When I got a gel mani last week before heading to Austin for SXSW, which is still going strong 9 days later, I might add, my nail tech put these white, fingerless gloves on my hands as the polish cured. I felt like a mime or a clown, but I also felt comfortable knowing my hands, save for my fingertips, were covered and somewhat protected.

Full disclosure. I do not know if it was a UV or LED lamp being used, but I am going to ask next time I get a gel mani, thank you very much.

Here's three things to know or do if you are like me and want to remain careful and cautious.

1. Think Twice

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Buyer beware. There are other problems associated with gel manis, as I mentioned, like the soak to remove the polish. And why knowingly expose yourself to the UV lights, even if it's considered a small risk? Because you never know — in three years, a newer, bigger study could come out saying that even small doses are a threat. You decide if it's worth it to you.

2. Learn Your Lamps

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Inform yourself. Learn the differences between UV lamps and LED lights. The quick takeaway is that LED light sources are visible and generally faster at curing polish and that there are UV lights, which are present in the sun and tanning or nail lamps and are invisible, in LED lamps. And it's more about how you prep and care for a gel mani that extends its life, not the type of light you use.

3. Ask Questions

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I am glad my manicurist put the gloves on my hands, but really, how protected were they? I don't know. So I am going to continue to read up on the subject and ask them what kind of lights they use and why! I am thinking, from the reading I have done, that last week it was a UV lamp used during my gel mani, and I don't like that idea, so I am shaking my finger at myself for being too capricious in this situation.

It's not just a mani. So, please, do your homework. And then decide your personal preference.

Images: Getty (4)