UV light, gel manicures, and the dubious digit

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Gel manicures a manicure in which a coat of colored gel is applied to the nail and dried using UV light have been increasing in popularity, mostly because they do not chip and last twice as long as a regular manicure. But doing its best to create a health scare, the New York Post blares Manicure red alert on its front page today. DOC S SHOCK WARNING.

You wouldn t know it from the article, but what the doctor, Chris Adigun, had to say was fairly restrained. In a statement released Friday by the American Academy of Dermatology, the assistant professor of dermatology at the NYU School of Medicine warned that occasional gel manicures do not pose a serious threat to nail health, but she advises women who frequently receive these manicures to be aware of the potential risks with repeated use.

Dr. Adigun asserts that the dose of UV light used to dry the nails damages skin cells, similarly to a tanning bed. But these UV lights are not regulated, so the proper dose is not known. Still, she urges women to consider applying sunscreen to their hands prior to receiving this type of manicure to decrease the consequences of chemical trauma.

But so far the only known cases of anyone developing skin cancer even possibly linked to nails exposed to UV manicure light was documented in a 2009 report in the JAMA Dermatology, which discussed two women with no history of skin cancer developing tumors on their hands after being exposed to these UV lights.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross says, While it is true that UV light is a carcinogen causally related to different types of skin cancer the amount of exposure in a gel manicure does not seem likely to raise skin cancer risk and the fact that there have only been two cases in the literature suspected to be so linked makes this seem alarmist.