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How to Enjoy Your Gel Manicure and Not Get Cancer

Gel manicures make our nails look like they were done by Keith Haring or some other pop artist painter. They’re sleek, slick and glossy and last way longer than conventional polish. However, UVA rays used to dry out gel manicures can provoke dangerous, long-term side effects.

Gel manicures have gained serious popularity over the last decade because of their photogenic luster and staying power. Gel polish has a soft, three-dimensional effect when applied, and is usually more expensive than your typical manicure. For people with cracks or permanently damaged nails that normally can’t sustain polish, gel will completely cover up those divots or defects.

Despite the aesthetic benefits, people who routinely get gel manicures might be at an increased risk of getting skin cancer. The lamps used to cure and harden the nails generate UVA rays, which doesn’t burn the skin but can penetrate the deep layers of the skin and can trigger photo-aging, liver spots and skin cancer. Malignant melanoma is often detected in the palm, soles of the feet, and around the nail bed — meaning letting our hands lay under intense UVA rays can only escalate our chances of developing the cancer.  

Some salons opt for LED lamps because they’ve been touted as safer alternatives. However, according to Chris Adigun, MD, a dermatologist in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, these lamps carry the same health risks. “Although many people mistakenly believe these lamps do not use UVA [rays] to cure, they in fact use higher intensities of UVA wavelengths in order to achieve the shorter curing times. This higher intensity of UVA irradiance means that it requires less time for these lamps to potentially harm the skin," she told Teen Vogue.  

Applying sunscreen or wearing UV protectant gloves are two ways to keep your skin safe from UV rays during the gel manicure drying process. YouVeeShield has a line of disposable gloves that claim to protect 99.9 percent of UV light from nail lamps.

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