Gel manicure lamps may be dangerous

Gel manicures have revolutionized the nail cosmetics industry because they are so durable, but the ultraviolet nail lamps used to cure the gels emit potentially harmful UVA rays. A presentation Monday will review concerns about the lamps and some possible solutions.

“Nail Cosmetics: What Are Our Patients Doing and What We Need to Know,” (S057) presented by Chris Adigun, MD, a dermatologist from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who specializes in nails, is one of 10 presentations planned for this session.

Gel manicures have grown in popularity in the last 10 years, with studies showing that 85 percent of nail salon customers request gel manicures because they are almost as convenient as a traditional manicure, but considerably more durable.

“The nail industry has grown over $1 billion since 2011,” Dr. Adigun said. “There is no question that the nail industry is growing because of the wonderful new technology of the gel manicure.

“That being said, when we have so many patients going in for something like this, it is important for us as dermatologists to know what is going on and if there are any drawbacks that we need to be aware of so we can advise our patients effectively.”

Examination of the gel manicure phenomenon has uncovered the potential effects of the nail lamps needed to cure the gel polymers to the nail plate. In earlier studies, only UVB rays were examined, and found to not be a problem. However, UVA rays are what the lamps emit in the highest intensity because the UVA spectrum of light is required to cure the gel manicure, Dr. Adigun said.

“There have been more studies, and we are finding that the UVA risk is not minute,” she said. “Time will tell how carcinogenic these lamps prove to be. However, until longitudinal studies are conducted, it is prudent that we are aware of the potential dangers of regular or intermittent exposure to high-intensity UVA rays and that we educate our patients on the best ways to shield their skin during these manicures.

“The gel lamps are relatively new, so we don’t have long-term data. Instead, we have smaller studies that look at the intensity of the UVA rays emitted by the lamps, and we are finding that is not insignificant.”

Another factor is that LED bulbs are being added to the nail lamps to shorten the time needed to cure the gel manicures. Until recently, it was not generally known that the nail lamps with LED bulbs still emitted UV rays, so calling these lamps “LED lamps” rather than “UV lamps” is a misnomer, Dr. Adigun said. Nail lamps with LED bulbs still emit UVA rays, but of greater intensity compared to nail lamps with traditional bulbs.

“This is a major cosmetic issue. Without long-term data, we can’t say UVA rays cause cancer, but the lamps emit strong UVA rays that can have cosmetically detrimental effects on the skin, such as photoaging. Therefore, we need to use appropriate protection. I will talk about quick, easy, and economical ways for women and men who get gel manicures to protect their skin so they can have it all.”

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