The Hidden Danger of UV Lamps in Gel Nail Salons

January 22, 2023
The Hidden Danger of UV Lamps in Gel Nail Salons

Gel nail polish has become a popular option for numerous ladies, offering a long-lasting and shiny finish that classic nail polish just can’t match. However, there’s a hidden danger associated with gel nail polish that many people are ignorant of: the UV lamps utilized in gel nail salons.

What are UV Lamps and How Do They Work?

UV Lamps in Gel Nail Salons
UV Lamps in Gel Nail Salons/ Pexels

UV lamps, also known as UV curing lamps or UV light boxes, are used to cure or harden gel nail polish. They are widely operated in gel nail salons, in order to provide a long-lasting and shiny finish that standard nail polish can’t reach.

The UV lamps in gel nail salons work by emitting ultraviolet (UV) light, which causes a chemical reaction in the gel polish, making it harden and dry. This procedure is called Photopolymerization. UV lamps come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from small handheld devices to large light boxes. The most familiar types of UV lamps used in gel nail salons are UV-A lamps, which radiate light in the UV-A range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

When the gel polish is applied to the nails, it is in a liquid or semi-liquid form, and it needs to be cured or hardened in order to dry. This is done by exposing the gel polish to UV light, which causes the molecules in the gel to crosslink and form a solid. The length of time the nails are revealed to the UV light depends on the lamp used, the type of gel polish, and the desired level of cure. It usually varies between 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

The Risks of UV Lamps for Skin Cancer

The usefulness of UV lamps in gel nail salons has become increasingly widespread in recent years, but these lamps come with a hidden threat: the risk of skin cancer. UV lamps emit ultraviolet (UV) light, which can be damaging to the skin and eyes, and can increase the risk of skin cancer and other skin damage.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the UV radiation radiated by these lamps is similar to that of the sun and can cause DNA damage in the skin cells, leading to skin cancer. In addition, repeated exposure to UV lamps can also cause early aging and age marks. This is mainly concerning for people who often visit gel nail salons or work as technicians in these salons.

One study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that people who regularly utilized UV lamps for gel nail polish were two to three times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, a sort of skin cancer. Another study posted in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology found that people who used UV lamps for gel nail polish were at an increased risk of developing malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Related: Non-Toxic Nail Polish: The Green Choice for a Gorgeous Manicure

Effects on the Nails

The UV light emitted by UV lamps used in gel nail salons can also have an effect on the nails themselves. With reference to the American Academy of Dermatology study, UV lamps can cause modifications in the nails, including discoloration, thickening, and splitting. Furthermore, it can also make your nails more brittle, which can lead to breakage or cracking.

Discoloration of the nails can occur when the UV light induces the melanin in the nails to darken, which can lead to yellow, brown, or black discoloration. This is called gel nail polish staining.

Thickening of the nails can happen when the UV light causes the nails to become dense, which makes them harder and thicker. This is called nail hyperkeratosis.

Splitting of the nails can ensue when the UV light renders the nails to become more brittle, which makes them more prone to splitting or cracking.

Safety Measures for Gel Nail Salons

To minimize the dangers linked with UV lamps in gel nail salons, it is necessary for salons to take appropriate safety precautions. Some of these safety measures enclose:

  • Providing UV-blocking gloves and protecting eyewear for technicians and customers.
  • Limiting the amount of time clients spend under the UV lamps.
  • Keeping the lamps at a secure distance from the skin and eyes.
  • Regularly maintaining and testing the UV lamps to ensure they are working properly
  • Posting warning signs to inform clients of the potential risks of UV lamps
  • Familiarizing technicians and clients on the proper use and safety precautions of UV lamps.
  • Employing UV-absorbing gel polish.
  • Operating LED lamps instead of UV lamps.
  • Using UV-blocking sunscreens before and after the nail service.

It is also crucial to note that not all UV lamps are created similarly, and some may emit more harmful UV radiation than others. It’s important to use lamps that are manufactured to safety norms, and detour using lamps that are not designed for salon use.

By taking these safety criteria, gel nail salons can aid decrease the risks associated with UV lamps and protect the health of their clients and technicians.

Alternatives to UV Lamps

If you’re concerned about the risks associated with UV lamps in gel nail salons, there are several choices that you can consider:

1-LED Lamps: LED lamps are a safer alternative to UV lamps, as they emit light in the visible and infrared spectrum, rather than UV radiation. LED lamps are also faster and more energy-efficient than UV lamps.

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Gel Polish Without UV Lamp: Some gel polishes are designed to be cured without the use of UV lamps. These polishes typically use a special resin that hardens when exposed to natural light or a special type of LED light.

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Dip Powder Nails: Dip powder nails is a nail enhancement that uses a powder and liquid to create a hard, durable finish. The nails are dipped into the powder, then sealed with a topcoat, no UV lamps are needed.

Traditional Nail Polish: Traditional nail polish is an alternative that does not require UV lamps to dry. It can be more prone to chipping and peeling, but it’s a safer option.

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Nail Wraps: Nail wraps are a type of adhesive nail covering that can be applied to natural nails or artificial nails. They are often made of cloth, paper or vinyl and can last up to two weeks. No UV lamps are needed.

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Note that these alternatives may not have the same durability and shine as gel nails but they are regarded as safer. Ultimately, the preference between these alternatives will rely on your personal picks and priorities.

To sum up, while gel nail polish may deliver a long-lasting and shiny finish, the UV lamps employed in gel nail salons can be harmful to the skin and nails. It is important to be mindful of the risks and take proper safety precautions, or opt for alternative methods of getting a gel manicure. Remember that the beauty of your nails and the health of your skin should not be compromised.

Photo: Pexels/ Cheda Stankovic

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Margaud Raynaud is a beauty expert with over 10 years of experience in the industry. She has a passion for sharing her knowledge and tips with others and has a particular interest in skincare and makeup. When she's not writing about health and beauty, Margaud enjoys trying out new products and experimenting with different looks. Follow her blog for expert advice and inspiration for living your best life.

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