The devices are a common fixture in nail salons, and generally use a particular spectrum of UV light (340-395nm) to cure the chemicals used in gel manicures. Studies have conclusively proven the UV spectrum used in tanning beds to be carcinogenic (
), but the spectrum used in nail dryers has not been well studied.
Using three different cell lines- adult human skin cells, human foreskin fibers, and mouse embryonic cells- the researchers found that the use of these UV emitting devices for just one 20-minute session led to between 20 and 30 percent cell death, while three consecutive 20-minute exposures caused between 65 and 70 percent of the exposed cells to die.
Exposure to UV light also caused mitochondrial and DNA damage in the remaining cells and resulted in genetic changes with patterns that can be observed in skin cancer in humans.
They reported that some of the DNA damage does not get repaired over time, and it does lead to mutations after every exposure to a UV-nail polish dryer. Some exposure may cause mitochondrial dysfunction, which may also result in additional mutations (2✔ ✔Trusted Source
DNA damage and somatic mutations in mammalian cells after irradiation with a nail polish dryer
Go to source).
The researchers caution that, while the results show the harmful effects of the repeated use of these devices on human cells, a long-term epidemiological study would be required before stating conclusively that using these machines leads to an increased risk of skin cancers.
However, the results of the study published in Nature Communications clearly show that using these nail polish drying machines in a long term is damaging human cells.
Is the Cancer Risk of Doing Manicure Worth the Reward?
This data in human cells, coupled with several prior reports of cancers in people who get gel manicures very frequently, paint a picture of a purely cosmetic procedure that is riskier than previously believed.
But is getting a gel manicure once a year cause for concern, or should only those who get this done on a very regular basis be worried is remaining inconclusive.
The experimental results and the prior evidence strongly suggest that radiation emitted by UV-nail polish dryers may cause cancers of the hand and that UV-nail polish dryers, similar to tanning beds, may increase the risk of early-onset skin cancer.
Nevertheless, future large-scale studies are warranted to accurately quantify the risk of skin cancer of the hand in people regularly using UV-nail polish dryers. Such studies will likely take at least a decade to complete and subsequently inform the general public.
Though other consumer products use UV light in the same spectrum- including the tool used to cure dental fillings and some hair removal treatments need to be placed on the same radar too.
- Ultraviolet Emission Spectra of Sunbeds – (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12511047/)
- DNA damage and somatic mutations in mammalian cells after irradiation with a nail polish dryer – (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-35876-8)
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