We’ve all heard about the harmful effects of UV rays and what it can do to our skin and eyes. But do you know that UV light is now becoming a regular part of the nail salon process? That’s right, ultraviolet radiation is what is used in the lamps that help speed dry nails, and they are actually necessary to set gel manicures. But exactly how harmful are these UV lamps to our skin and what can we do to prevent damaging effects?
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, these lights do emit UV radiation and it consists predominantly of UVA rays which has been linked to premature skin aging and skin cancer. However, the SCF goes on to say, even the most intense of these devices presents only a moderate UV risk. To put it in perspective, Jessica Wu, MD an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the USC School of Medicine offers this, based on a recent study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. “The researchers concluded that nail lamps would be safe to use for over 250 years of weekly manicures, and even then there would be a low risk of skin cancer.” Even so, it is best to play it safe, so here are some tips on how to keep your hands protected when under the fast dry lamps.
LED lamps and UV lamps-don’t let the names confuse you. They both emit UV radiation. However, LED lamps can be a bit safer. The amount of time spent under these lamps is directly related to how harmful their effects can be and LED lamps offer a faster dry exposing hands and nails to the light for mere seconds. LED lamps have also been known to treat signs of sun damage and generate new collagen in skin. Amy Sciarretto, fashion and beauty writer at Bustle.com recommends asking your salon what type of lamps they use before booking an appointment.
Other safety measures include making sure your hands are well moisturized and slathering hands in sunscreen 20 minutes prior to UV exposure. If the lamp your salon uses emits UVA rays, make sure your sunscreen has a UVA blocker like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and apply in a thick, even layer.
Of course you can always choose to air dry nails and limit your trips to the salon and/or the frequency of your gel manicures. (This may be safer all around as the removal process for gel manicures has been known to damage nails, making them thinner and brittle.) Another option it to wear dark opaque gloves cut off at the fingertips while having your nails treated under a UV lamp at the salon.
A final warning is that nail lamps used in salons are unregulated and may offer a higher dose of the UV light than what some studies may determine safe. That is why it is always a good idea to do your best to protect hands against worst case scenarios.