Doctors Report Gel Manicures Using UV Lights Could Cause Cancer


Dermatology specialists are warning about the potential dangers of gel manicures saying that the UV lamps can put people at a higher risk for cancer. 

Summer is approaching and that means most of us will be slathering on the sunscreen when stepping outside. But you probably don’t think about skin cancer when you hit up your nail salon.

Now, there’s a new warning out for consumers after a young woman’s story about manicures and melanoma.

Karolina Jasko, 20, is getting ready to compete in the Miss USA Pageant. Her road leading up to being crowned Miss Illinois USA is part of her story. Her thumb reveals the scars of melanoma skin cancer.

“I got this black vertical line on my fingernail and I never really noticed it because I had acrylics,” she said.

So Karolina went to her doctor to have it checked and at the young age of 18 was diagnosed with melanoma.

“The doctor said I most likely got it from getting my nails done from the nail salon from getting acrylics from the light,” she said.

The light Karolina is referring to is a device that emits UVA rays to cure gel manicures. Over the past few years, these lamps and light boxes used to seal polish have raised concerns.

“Whether indoor tanning, UV lamp, outdoor tanning, all of those can cause aging of the skin and potential for skin cancers,” said Dr. Carolyn Jacob.

Dr. Jacob, who is the director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, says Karolina may have also been at higher risk because she has a family history of melanoma. But she thinks it’s important for everyone to take precautions when using light boxes during manicures.

First tip – use sunscreen on your hands.

“Use a sunscreen that has a physical blocker like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to cover all of your skin,” Dr. Jacob said.

Tip number two – wear protective gloves that salons sometimes provide or you can order online.

For Karolina, her brush with melanoma became part of her platform as Miss Illinois USA. This week, she’ll be competing in the Miss USA pageant where she hopes to bring the serious issue of skin cancer to the forefront.

“Being Miss Illinois USA helps me a lot because I get to talk about it with large groups of people and I feel like I get to bring awareness,” Karolina said.

According to a report published by the American Academy of Dermatology, UV exposure during gel manicures should be a concern for everyone, but especially for people who are highly sensitive to UV light. Chris G. Adigun, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in nail disorders, says that although the UVA rays don’t burn the skin like UVB rays, they do penetrate the skin to damage DNA and collagen, which can lead to premature aging and may increase skin cancer risk.

Dr. Adigun says that a common misconception people believe is that LED curing lamps provide a safer option at nail salons, however, those lamps also emit UVA light.

“The UV dose that you receive during a gel manicure is brief, but it’s intense,” Dr. Adigun says. “Over time, this intense exposure can add up to cause skin damage… For many patients, a gel manicure can be life-changing.”