Gel nail lamps: are they safe?
Well, in case you missed it, gel manicures have copped a bit of a bad rap lately. More specifically, the lamps used in setting the gel.
There have been recent studies (like the one featured in JAMA Dermatology, a medical journal published by the American Medical Association) that claim that exposure to the UV light in the lamp can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. Yep, the big ‘C’. We love a good gel manicure, but we’re also very UV-conscious about our skin, so we decided to take a deep breath and a big step back and see what some of the experts had to say about the issue.
Doug Schoon, Chief Scientific Advisor at CND, Paul Bryson, Director of R&D at OPI Products, and Jim McConnell, President of McConnell labs – all holders of degrees in chemistry and scientists in the professional nail industry – conducted their own testing of leading UV lamps in an independent lab to determine how much UVA and UVB rays they emit compared to natural sunlight.
I’ll try to not get too technical here, but basically they conducted their tests using lamps designed to utilise four 9-watt UV bulbs and ones designed to utilise two 9-watt UV bulbs. They did this to determine how exposures would vary across the range of UV nail lamps used in the majority of salons and at-home kits.
So what did they find? Firstly, that the amount of UVB rays to which skin is exposed to is roughly equal to what it’d be exposed to if someone spent an extra 17 to 26 seconds in the sunlight each day of the two weeks between gel manicures. Secondly, they also found that the UVA exposure was equivalent to spending an extra 1.5 to 2.7 minutes in sunlight in the same two-week period. They concluded that UV nail lamps are safe when used as directed and in brief exposures (as usually happens when getting a gel manicure) and that hands are actually more likely to be exposed to more UV light while driving during the day than from the UV lamps used in setting gel nails.
So there you have it – it seems like perhaps things weren’t as bad as some of the headlines suggested. If you’re still concerned but don’t want to give up your gel manicures there are extra safety measures you can take.
It’s a good idea to apply a sunscreen with high SPF before getting your nails done and to wear white, fingerless cloth gloves. It also pays to know what kind of machine is being used. For example, Bio Sculpture Gel’s lamps have been tested by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety agency and it was found that, when used as directed, the lamps posed no risk to consumers. If you’re unsure if the lamps at your salon meet safety-testing requirements, you can call in advance to ask.
Are you concerned about getting a gel manicure? Have you stopped getting a gel manicure since hearing the claims that the lamps can increase skin damage?