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Is your manicure exposing you to cancer?

299 Buffing up before a gel manicure at Jekyll&Hyde in Morningside Shopping Centre. 250310. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

299 Buffing up before a gel manicure at Jekyll&Hyde in Morningside Shopping Centre. 250310. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Published Mar 22, 2013


London - Fashionable gel manicures that keep nails glossy and chip-free for weeks could increase the risk of skin cancer, experts have warned.

They say the UV light from lamps used to set the gel can cause similar skin damage to sunbeds.

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The treatment is also said to make nails thinner and may conceal infections.

Tens of thousands of women in the UK regularly have a gel manicure which uses a special type of polish, such as Shellac, that keeps its colour and sheen for weeks. But Dr Chris Adigun said the lamps used to harden the gel can cause skin damage in the same way as sunbeds.

“Women who frequently get gel manicures should consider their skin cancer risk,” said Dr Adigun.

He advised women to put suncream on their hands before having a gel manicure and said they should have them only for special occasions to “decrease the consequences of chemical trauma”.

Another side-effect of UV light is skin ageing, which could result in perfect-looking nails but wrinkly hands. There is the added worry that the machines aren’t regulated, meaning consumers don’t know how much exposure they are getting.

Dr Adigun, from New York University School of Medicine, added that the long-lasting manicures could hide any nail problems such as an infection or tumour, delaying diagnosis.

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“Any manicure left in place for an extended period of time is not a good idea because you are not seeing what is going on underneath the nail polish,” he wrote in the journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

A study in 2009 found that two middle-aged women developed tumours on their hands following exposure to UV nail lights.

Frequent gel manicure users have long complained that their nails start to peel and break.

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Dr Adigun confirmed the process does cause nail thinning and brittleness and said it can take up to six weeks for nails to return to normal after a manicure.

He referred to one study that found nails were measurably thinner after one treatment, but he said it was unclear whether brittleness is caused by chemicals in the gel polish or from acetone used to remove it.

Acetone, which breaks down the chemical bonds of gel polish, is very drying and can also irritate the surrounding skin. A spokesman for Creative Nail Designs, the company behind Shellac, said UV light exposure from a gel manicure lamp is no more dangerous than sitting under strip lighting.

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Dr David Valia, the firm’s director of research and development, said: “The amount of energy from a UV lamp during a nail service would be roughly equivalent to the amount of UV exposure one would experience during a typical day of exposure in indoor fluorescent lighting.” - Daily Mail

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