A common nail salon tool may cause DNA damage and mutations in human cells, research finds

A study suggests that radiation from nail dryers may damage DNA and cause cancer-causing mutations in human cells, raising concerns about the safety of regular gel manicures and pedicures. UV nail lamps, which emit ultraviolet A (UVA) light, are compared to mini tanning beds by some dermatologists. Researchers found that a 20-minute session led to 20-30% of exposed cells dying, while three consecutive sessions caused 65-70% of cell death. The remaining cells experienced DNA damage and mutations linked to skin cancer. The study’s limitation is that cell line exposure to UV light differs from living humans and animals, where the top layer of skin absorbs most UV irradiation. Nevertheless, the findings, combined with previous evidence, suggest reconsidering UVA dryer usage without protection for hands and fingers.

Reducing your risk

To reduce the risks associated with gel manicures, experts suggest applying broad-spectrum sunblock containing zinc and titanium around the nails and wearing UV gloves with the fingertips cut off during the curing process. Alternatives like gel nail wraps or using LED lights, which emit little or no UV light, can also be considered. Regular manicures that air-dry are another option. If you regularly get gel manicures, consult a dermatologist to check for skin cancer precursors. Limiting gel manicures to special occasions, using sunscreen and gloves, and applying antioxidant-rich serums can help mitigate risks. People with a history of skin cancers, fair skin, albinism, or immunosuppression should be more cautious. Dermatologists recommend avoiding UV dryers altogether for full protection.

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