UV manicure dryers can lead to cancer-causing cell mutations: study

Gel manicure lovers may want to sit down for this one.

A new study has found that UV drying lamps used for gel and shellac manicures damage DNA and cause cell mutations.

“If you look at the way these devices are marketed, they’re marketed as safe, not to worry,” said study co-author Ludmil Alexandrov, a professor of industrial and cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego. statements.

“But as far as we know, no one has really studied these devices and how they affect human cells at the molecular and cellular level until now.”

In the study, published this week in the journal Nature Communications, the UC researchers analyzed three cell lines: human skin keratinocytes, human foreskin fibroblasts and mouse embryonic fibroblasts.

gel manicure
Researchers shed light on concerns about UV lamps used in gel manicures.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The findings showed that UV exposure for one 20-minute session caused 20% to 30% of exposed cells to die, while three 20-minute sessions caused 65% to 70% cell death.

The rest of the cells weren’t safe from damage either – they suffered DNA damage and mutations, all the while making skin cancer.

“We looked at patients with skin cancer and saw exactly the same patterns of mutations in those patients that were seen in the irradiated cells,” Alexandroff continued.

While research shows that more than 100 million women in the U.S. use some type of nail product, it’s unclear how many opt for gel.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the risk factor depends on how often the beauty-obsessed go to the manicurist, dermatologist Melissa Piliang said in 2021.

UV light
The UC San Diego study was published this week in the journal Nature Communications.
Getty Images

Those seeking weekly manicures that dry their nails under the lamp for 10 minutes “might want to worry,” she advises, adding that clients should bring sunscreen to the appointment to apply before using the UV dryers.

While the study’s authors cautioned that more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of UV lamps, their results were surprising enough for co-author Maria Zhivagui to swear off her own gel polish habit.

“When I was doing my PhD, I started hearing about gel manicures, which last longer than regular nail polish,” explained Zhivagui, a postdoctoral fellow. “I was interested in trying gel nail polish, especially in the context of working in an experimental laboratory where I often put on and take off gloves to maintain a presentable appearance.”

She said she had been getting gel manicures for years until she saw “the effect of the radiation emitted by the gel polish dryer on cell death”, saying she was “amazed”.

“I found it very disturbing and decided to stop using it,” he added.

After noticing that people who used chronic gel polish developed “rare finger cancers,” Alexandroff decided to take on the case himself, realizing that very little research had been done in this area.

“Our experimental results and previous evidence strongly suggest that radiation emitted by UV nail polish dryers can cause hand cancers and that UV nail polish dryers, similar to tanning beds, may increase the risk early onset of skin cancer”. the authors wrote, adding that it may take years to determine whether these concerns should be the nail in the coffin for these UV light devices.