Salon Nail Dryers May Cause DNA Damage and Skin Cancer from Radiation, Researchers Warn

Researchers say consumers should either reconsider getting monthly manicures which involve salon nail dryers or use some kind of UV protection on their hands during such procedures.

The findings of a new study has raised concerns about the safety of ultraviolet (UV) nail polish dryers, which are widely used at salons nationwide, but actually may cause mutations in human cells and DNA damage, potentially increasing the risk of skin cancer.

In a report published this month in the medical journal Nature Communications, researchers from the University of California San Diego warn about a potential link between regular use of UV nail polish dryers and skin cancer, due to exposure to ultraviolet-A (UVA) radiation.

Salons use the UV nail dryers to quickly dry and harden gel nail polish after a manicure. Many consumers go to such salons on a regular basis, which may increase their risk of DNA damage and cancer, the researchers warn.

Scientists working with UC San Diego’s Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine analyzed mice and human cell samples after exposure to the dryers to better quantify the risks, which had never been done before.

Nail Dryer Cancer Risks

During the study, the researchers exposed human and mouse cells to UV light from nail polish dryers in 20-minute sessions. Roughly 20% to 30% of cells died. The rest of the cells experienced DNA damage and changes to DNA and mitochondria; mutations with patterns that can lead to skin cancer in humans.

Researchers found the UV nail polish dryer can cause high levels of reactive oxygen species in cells that lead to damaged and dysfunctional mitochondria. More than 65% of cells exposed died after three 20 minutes sessions under the nail polish dryer.

“Taken together, our experimental results and the prior evidence strongly suggest that radiation emitted by UV-nail polish dryers may cause cancers of the hand and that UV-nail polish dryers, similar to tanning beds, may increase the risk of early-onset skin cancer,” the researchers concluded. “Nevertheless, future large-scale epidemiological studies are warranted to accurately quantify the risk for skin cancer or the hand in people regularly using UV-nail polish dryers.”

UV Radiation Health Concerns

Other research focusing on UV radiation in tanning beds has linked exposure to cell damage and skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, as well as non-melanoma forms of skin cancer.

UVA light has a wavelength ranging from 315 to 400 nanometers and can penetrate the skin more deeply. This is why it is commonly used in salons with nail dryers that use a wavelength of 340 to 395 nanometers. Comparatively, tanning beds use UVA light ranging from 280 to 400 nanometers.

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Nail polish dryers are often marketed as safe devices for human use, yet tanning beds are known as carcinogenic and require safety labeling on the devices. Some researchers call nail polish dryers “mini tanning beds” for the nails and warn they may be just as harmful to humans as tanning beds.

Researchers admit one limitation of the study is that exposing cells in Petri dishes is different from exposing the cells from live human hands. But the researchers say the findings of this latest study should make users of these products carefully consider placing their hands in the nail polish dryers without using some sort of protective barrier on the rest of their hands.

Consumers can make sure to use broad-spectrum sunblock with zinc on their hands and around the nails before getting a gel manicure or wear gloves with the fingertips cut off to protect the skin, or consumers can opt for regular manicures instead of gel manicures that air dry nails instead of using UV dryers.

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