The Hidden Health Risks of Gel Manicures

Gel manicures have become the preferred nail manicure for many women these past few years instead of the traditional polish that has been around since the early 1900s. One of the reasons being that gel manicure lasts 2-3 times longer than a regular manicure (up to 4 weeks), and they keep their shiny and chip-free finish until you remove them.

It sounds well and harmless, right? Well actually, gel manicures can last that long because nails sit under an ultraviolet (UV) light multiple times throughout the manicure process and that allows the gel to dry faster. If you’re someone who often gets gel manicures, just think about the number of times your nails have been exposed to (UV) radiation.

Take the story of Lauren Ann’s best friend who routinely got her gel manicure done and developed a skin cancer called melanoma from it.

She said, “One of my very best friends in the world got gel manicures regularly, like many of us. Prior to her diagnosis I hadn’t put too much thought into the dangers of the UV light so close to the fingers/nails, especially with some fairly newer chemical compound on them. She no longer has this thumbnail because THANK GOD she was smart enough to go to a dermatologist, and he diagnosed her with a rare form of cancer and did surgery. Although she very much misses her 10th nail, she is lucky it did not spread.”

Lauren Ann’s best friend caught the skin cancer before it spread elsewhere and she warns everyone else who frequently enjoys getting gel manicure done to be mindful of the harmful negative effect of UV radiation.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer in the US. It develops when damaged cells called melanocyte grow uncontrollably. Melanocyte cells contain a pigment called melanin, and they darken the skin when exposed to UV radiation from nail lamps, tanning beds, and the sun. (1)

Tanning beds, in particular, are especially damaging to the skin. The UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging and worst, skin cancer. In fact, people who use tanning beds before age 35 increase their risk of melanoma by 75 percent. (2)

Overexposure to UV light not only burns the skin but it damages melanocytes, and those cells can travel to other parts of the body. On average, 2 percent of the 3.5 million skin cancer diagnoses are melanoma, and it accounts for most skin cancer deaths. (3)

Symptoms and Treatment for Melanoma Skin Cancer

The ABCDE method may help you determine if an abnormal growth on your skin could be melanoma. (4)

  • Asymmetry: The mole has an irregular shape.
  • Border: The edge is not smooth, but irregular or notched.
  • Color: The mole has uneven shading or dark spots.
  • Diameter: The spot is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving or Elevation: The spot is changing in size, shape or texture.

The only way to be sure if a mole is a melanoma is to have it examined by a doctor.

Treatment for melanoma skin cancer varies depending on the stage that the cancer is at. Surgery to remove the cancer is often prescribed, and chemotherapy or radiation can also be necessary to remove the cancer cells. If you believe that you may have melanoma skin cancer, speak with your doctor to deduce the best and safest treatment for you.

Tips for the Safest Manicure

You probably think that from now on, you’ll switch to regular polish to avoid the dangers of gel nail polish when your nails are under the lamp. While that may seem like a better option, regular nail polish has its own dangers.

In a research study that tested for toxic chemicals in 24 women, 100% of the participants showed signs of triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) after 10 hours of applying nail polish. This statistic is alarming because TPHP disrupts the human endocrine system that controls our hormones and it poses serious health risks to anyone exposed to it.

What we recommend is to paint your nails with non-toxic polish. Brands like Zoya, Suncoat, and Honeybee Gardens are great options for non-toxic nail polish. Alternatively, you can choose the simple route and go polish-free. Buffing your nails and keeping them natural is the best way to go.

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