To Gel or Not to Gel?

Gel manicures are a lifesaver for collegiettes who want shiny, colorful nail polish that lasts. But a New York dermatologist says the procedure used to dry the gel may come with a much higher price: An increased risk of skin cancer.

During a gel manicure, a long-lasting polish containing polymers is painted on to the nails. To enact and harden the polymers in the polish, manicurists dry the nails using use a lamp that emits a low dose of ultraviolet light. The result? A solid manicure that can last for more than two weeks without any sight of chips or scratches. Some of my gel manicures have lasted up to 21 days.

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At nail salons in Winston-Salem, the cost of a gel manicure ranges from $25 to $35.

The entire process may result in pretty nails, but it also may harm the user’s DNA. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light is a proven carcinogen. “UV light can cause premature wrinkling, dark spots and light spots,” said Dr. Chris Adigun of New York University’s Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology in 2013. All of which can also be precursors to skin cancer.

Dr. Adigun stresses, however, that nail lamps aren’t nearly as dangerous as tanning beds; the main way women are exposed to ultraviolet rays.

“In a study that was analyzing the strength of these lamps and comparing them with tanning beds, the conclusion was that the actual risk of inducing skin cancer by using these lamps is actually quite low,” Adigun said.

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So why should collegiettes be wary of gel manicures if the risk of cancer is “quite low”?

Wake Forest University Senior, Angela Christiano, isn’t taking any chances. “Cancer runs in my family. It would be stupid to further increase my chances of the disease over something silly like nail polish,” Christiano said.

Collegiettes who can’t imagine giving up their gel manicures should apply SPF 30 to their hands before putting them into the UV dryers. Stashing a small tube in your purse does the trick.

As with most things, better safe than sorry!

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