The Dangers of “Me-Time”


Photo by Adriana Hernandez.

For many people, a trip to the nail salon is a moment to wind down and relax from the hard week. As the smell of monomer fills the salon, smiles are seen in the mirror, and the owner tells clients to come back.

A study published on Jan. 17 is warning clients that their “me-time” could be causing them more harm than good. UV lamps, a machine used to cure gel nail polish, are now linked to a cancer-causing cell. Researchers claim that using the lamp for 20 minutes can result in between 20 to 30% of cell deaths. The remaining cells can experience DNA damage. As more information surfaces, nail techs are looking at ways to prevent this damage to their clients. 

Photo by Adriana Hernandez.

According to the American Cancer Society, UV rays, ultraviolet radiation, are “a form of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun and man-made sources like tanning beds and UV lamps.” Radiation comes in different forms, some radiating very high-energy, such as x-rays, and very low-energy, such as radio waves. UV radiation is right in the middle, but under certain circumstances, can turn fatal. 

The Food and Drug Administration claims that UV lamps used to cure gel polish are considered low-risk. However, they still radiate more than the sun. This in turn can cause skin damage. In extreme cases, it can lead to a Melanoma, or skin cancer. Melanomas can become deadly if not treated properly, as it can spread from the skin to other parts of the body.

Lizbeth Morales, a home-based nail technician of over a year, is not surprised by the recent study, “I already knew the dangers of UV lamps and their radiation, this is not a shocker.”

Photo by Adriana Hernandez.

“Although my clients only come to me once every three weeks, this is something I do every day, maybe up to four clients a day.”- Lizbeth Morales

To protect both parties from damage, Morales puts sunscreen all over their hands and wears fingerless gloves when curing the nail.

As new technicians emerge, most are not up-to-date on the right UV lamps. A piece of advice that Morales is giving them is to do their research and invest in high-quality equipment for the safety of both parties. However, some people are starting to look at other alternatives to gel polish. 

“As someone that has been doing her nails for more than a decade, this was very haunting to read.”-Jomaly Lopez

Research is still being conducted on these lamps effects on clients. Cancer from UV lamps could also be a factor of genetics, how long a hand is placed under one, or how frequently someone goes to the salon. 

“To the best of our knowledge, no one has actually studied these devices and how they affect human cells at the molecular and cellular levels until now.” – Ludmil Alexandrov, a UC San Diego professor

Photo by Adriana Hernandez.

Edward S. Kim, a physician-in-chief at City of Hope Orange County states, “I would not discourage a person from getting their nails done.” He continues by saying, “they should be practicing good preventative care — no matter if they’re in a nail salon or if they’re out in the sun.”