Study Examines Skin Cancer Risk of Nail Salon Lamps

The amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation produced by a nail-drying lamp at a single visit to a nail salon is not a serious concern, according to a new study published in JAMA Dermatology.  However, the wattage of nail lamps varies considerably, with different wattages producing different amounts of UVA radiation, and as few as 8 visits using higher-wattage lamps may produce enough UV exposure to cause skin damage.

The study, from the Division of Dermatology at Georgia Regents University, tested the amount of UVA light emitted by 17 nail drying lamps in 16 different nail salons. The researchers found that the amount of UVA exposure varies widely by device, but that even with the highest-wattage lamps, the total exposure from a single manicure visit is too low to pose a potential risk for cancer. Furthermore, the amount of UV exposure to the hands is not uniform, with some parts of the hand receiving greater exposure than other areas. The researchers concluded that multiple visits are required to accumulate enough exposure for any skin cell DNA damage, but even with numerous visits, the risk of cancer or increased aging is small.

Nonetheless, all UV exposures add up over our lifetime, and the authors share The Skin Cancer Foundation’s recommendation to play it safe by applying broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to hands before exposing them to UV light emitted from nail-drying devices. Other safe options are wearing UVA-protective gloves with the fingertips cut out, letting nails dry naturally, or using the nail dryer’s fan only. (The light component can usually be switched off.)