Research has found that gel manicures may damage DNA
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Radiation from nail dryers can damage DNA and cause cancer-causing mutations in human cells, a new study finds — and it might have you wondering if a regular gel manicure is worth the risk.
Some dermatologists say the results, at Study published Jan. 17 Per Nature Communications, it’s nothing new when it comes to Concerns about UVA or UVB radiation from any source. In fact, the results confirm why some dermatologists have changed the way they get nail gels or stopped getting them altogether.
“The findings contribute to already published data on the harmful effects of (UV) radiation and show direct cell death and tissue damage that can lead to skin cancer,” said Dr. Julia Curtis, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Utah. , who was not involved in the study.
“Tanning beds are listed as carcinogenic and nail UV lamps are mini-tanning beds for your gel nails to cure,” Curtis said.
Ultraviolet radiation, a form of electromagnetic radiation, has a wavelength from 10 to 400 nanometers, according to UCAR Center for Science Education.
Ultraviolet A (315 to 400 nanometers), found in sunlight, penetrates the skin more deeply and is commonly used in UV nail dryers, which have become popular over the past decade. Tanning beds use 280 to 400 nanometers, while the range used in nail dryers is from 340 to 395 nanometers, according to Press release to study.
“If you look at the way these devices are presented, they are marketed as safe, and there is nothing to worry about,” said corresponding author Ludmil Alexandrov in the press release. “But as far as we know, no one has really studied these devices and how they affect human cells at the molecular and cellular levels yet.” Alexandrov holds dual titles as Associate Professor of Bioengineering and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California San Diego.
The researchers exposed cells from humans and mice to UV light, and found that a 20-minute session resulted in 20% to 30% of the cells dying. Three consecutive 20-min exposures resulted in the death of 65% to 70% of the exposed cells. The remaining cells suffered mitochondrial and DNA damage, resulting in mutations with patterns observed in melanomas in humans.
The biggest limitation of the study, said dermatologist Dr. Julie Russak, founder of the Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York City, is that exposing cell lines to UV light differs from conducting the study in live humans and animals. Russak was not involved in the study.
“When we do that (irradiation) inside human hands, there is definitely a difference,” Russak said. “Most UV rays are absorbed by the top layer of skin. When you irradiate cells in a petri dish directly, it’s a little different. You have no protection from the skin, the keratinocytes, or the upper layers. It’s also very direct UV irradiation.”
But this study, combined with previous evidence — such as case reports of people who developed squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, in association with UV dryers — means we should definitely “think more seriously about just exposing our hands.” “Fingers are exposed to UVA light without any protection,” said Dr. Shari Lipner, assistant professor of clinical dermatology and director of the nail division at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Lipner was not a participant in the study.
If you’re worried about a gel manicure but don’t want to give it up, there are some precautions you can take to mitigate the risks.
“Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen containing zinc and titanium around the nails, and wear UV gloves with fingertips cut off when it’s time to treat your nails,” said Curtis, who hasn’t gotten a gel manicure. “I recommend alternatives to gel nails, like the new toppers available online.” (Nail gel wraps or strips are adhesive gel nail products that do not always require to be set by UV nail dryers.)
Some salons use LED lights, Lipner said, which are “thought to emit no UV light or much less.”
Lipner gets regular manicures—which usually last seven to 10 days—not in an effort to avoid UV rays but instead Because she doesn’t like the nail diluent acetone soak included in gel nail polish.
“Normal manicures are air-dried,” she added. “Gel manicures need to be formatted or sealed, and the polymers in the polish must be activated, which can only be done with UVA lights.”
If you’ve gotten a gel manicure regularly, Lipner recommends seeing a board-certified dermatologist who can check your skin for any precursors of skin cancer and treat it before it becomes a serious problem. (UV rays can age skin, showing up as sunspots and wrinkles, she said.)
Lipner said there isn’t enough data for experts to ponder how often people can get a gel manicure without putting themselves at risk. But Curtis recommended saving it for special occasions.
Russak said Russak doesn’t get gel nails often but she does use sunscreen and gloves when she does. She added that applying serums rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin C, beforehand may also help.
“As a dermatologist, I probably change gloves three or four times with just one patient. With regular nail polish, after three or four glove changes, the nail polish goes away,” Russak added. “Gel manicures definitely have a much longer lifespan, but does Really Worth the Risks of Photoaging and Developing Skin Cancer? Mostly not.”
Experts said people with a history of skin cancer or who are more sensitive to light due to bland skin, albinism, medication or immunosuppression should be extra careful when taking precautions. And whether or not you’re at higher risk, dermatologists spoke with CNN and urged caution.
“Unfortunately, full protection isn’t possible, so my best recommendation is to avoid these dryers completely,” Zeichner said.