Link between 'gel nail' UV lamps and cancer?

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by Rekha Muddaraj / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on May 3, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Updated Friday, May 3 at 2:20 PM

HOUSTON -- Gel manicures have been around for years, but their popularity is now soaring. Who wouldn’t want a chip-free manicure that lasts two weeks?

Chris Painter – and yes, that’s his real name – works as a manicurist at Isle Pedispa. He says his nail salon does up to 20 gel manicures a day.

“Our main focus is to preserve and protect the integrity of the nail,” Painter says.

The process is similar to a regular manicure: a base coat is applied, then two coats of color, and then a top coat. But in between each layer, your nails are exposed to UV light for a more than a minute at a time. But it’s those few minutes of exposure that has doctors like Baylor dermatologist Rajani Katta concerned.

“The more exposure you have the higher your risk of skin cancer,” says Dr. Katta.

She also says cancer is not the only risk – there can be allergic issues as well.

“Even though they are calling them gel nails, the same chemical is used as in acrylic nails. So if you’ve ever had issues with acrylic nails, you could have issues with gel nails.”

But if you are still looking for that polished perfection, Painter says there are few things you should keep in mind. First, make sure your nail salon isn’t using knock-off products.

“One of the most important things is that you see that you can see their bottles are labeled.”

Painter says common brand called Shellac is spelled with a “c” and not a “K” at the end.

And  when it’s time to remove the polish, Painter says gels should be soaked in acetone for several minutes. After that, the polish should be gently scraped off with a wooden instrument and not a metal instrument, to protect your natural nail.

But like many beauty trends, Dr. Katta says women should get gel manicure in moderation.

“If you did this one or two times or over a period of 2-3 months, I wouldn’t be concerned about that degree of UV light,” Katta says, “But if you’re going back every two weeks for a year, that would be concerning.”

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