We stopped using solariums years ago. It's time to talk about using UV light on our nails.

While nail trends come and go, you can never underestimate the power of a fresh manicure. It somehow just makes you feel more put-together. Fancy. A better version of your usual self. 

Just ask any beauty aficionado and they'll tell you it's one of their most frequent beauty treatments. They'll also probably tell you their manicure of choice (because beauty gals be beauty gals). Most commonly it'll either be something like 'shellac', 'BIAB' or simply 'gel'.

Unlike regular nail polish, these types of manicures (categorised as gel manicures) use UV light to dry or 'cure' gel nail polish, making it shiny and hard. Meaning? You can walk out the salon without messing them up.

The best part? Gel manicures tend to last longer, and don't chip or peel as easy as other types of manicures – usually sticking around for around two weeks.

Watch: How to take off acrylic nails at home and reduce nail damage. You will need acetone. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

However, for a while now, there been some noise floating around the possibility of ultraviolet lamps being more dangerous than we might think.


For example, this recent study found ultraviolet light (UVA) from UV nail dryers can damage DNA and cause mutations in cells that increase risk for skin cancer.

Yes, really.

While the researchers could not conclude if UV lamps cause cancer, they could confirm that it does negatively affect cells, and it damages DNA.

So, what does this mean? And should we really still be using UV lights on our hands?

We spoke to a dermatologist and a manicurist and asked them if UV nail lamps are actually dangerous and what we really need to know. 

Here's what we found out.

Are nail UV lamps dangerous?

As cosmetic doctor Dr Yalda Jamali from All Saint Clinic told Mamamia, "UV nail lamps that are frequently used at salons or at home unfortunately emit UVA radiation. Any exposure to UV will increase our risk of cancer and signs of premature ageing." 

"However, the risk is low as the UV radiation that is emitted is low and usually for very short periods. Important to note that 'LED' nail lamps also emit UVA radiation."

Mavala expert and manicurist Oli Antunes also said UV nail lamps were generally low risk when used as directed.

"They are not as dangerous as people think they are," she told Mamamia. "Think of UV like the sun rays and LED like the hospital lights. The difference is the type of wavelengths being emitted. UV rays are broad and LED rays are narrow (more targeted – therefore quicker curing and less exposure)."


"Although UV lamps may only cause minimal to no skin damage, LED lamps tend to be the safer and preferred option. But to confuse things further, some gel polishes can only be cured with a UV lamp."

Should you stop using UV lamps?

So, what does this mean for people who frequently get gel manicures? How worried should they be?

Dr Jamali said, "I don't think many people are aware that manicure lamps emit UVA radiation and are unaware of the risks. Although the risk of skin cancer from occasional use is pretty low, there are things we can do to reduce our risk." 

The most important thing, she said, is to keep up to date with the newest guidelines and research around UV nail lamps, as this is a fairly new treatment in terms of risks and statistics. 

"We are yet to know regarding the long-term use of these lamps (20+ years)," she told us.

How often would you have to be using UV lamps for damage to occur?

Theoretically, the risks associated with UV lamps would be considerably less if you used nail dryers less/got gel manicures infrequently... right?

Well, not necessarily.

As Dr Jamali reminded us, sun damage isn't a one-size-fits-all deal, and it's important to note that everyone has different risk factors and predispositions to both cancer and premature ageing. 

"Different skin types will have different risk factors as well," she said.


"There isn't a specific guidance or rule with them currently and advice will vary based on the intensity of the lamp device used and the duration. However, use and exposure to all UVA should be limited and precautions taken."

Is there any way to minimise risks of damage with UV lamps?

Both experts told Mamamia that anyone undergoing a manicure where nail lamps are used should be applying SPF around 20 mins prior to their nail appointment.

"Make sure not to brush against any of your nail plate with cream, or your product will lift," said Antunes.

Our experts also said to keep in mind that some LED lamps have less UV exposure that UV lamps, and to opt for those if you can.

Dr Jamali also suggested "using UV blocking gloves that are fingerless, limiting the frequency of gel manicures and having frequent skin checks."

However, she warned, "The precautions mentioned above do not protect our actual nails."

"There is an increased risk of nail cancer, in particular subungual squamous cell carcinoma, a rare but potentially aggressive type of skin cancer with UV radiation."

"It is a risk we take by having gel manicures. I would avoid UV lamps if there is an increased risk or predisposition of skin cancer."

Now, read that last line again.

Are at-home UV nail lamps less dangerous?

So, where do at-home devices come into this? Are they just as strong as the professional ones?


According to Antunes, "Most lamps need to be at least 36 watts to cure gel polish. But I would imagine that most at home lamps are now UV/LED or just LED. I'd still be wary of at-home UV anything."

Dr Jamali adds: "The at-home UV lamps pose a very similar risk. Usually they are a little weaker, but again the same precautions should be taken."

Are there any alternatives to using nail lamps?

For those seeking a salon-like finish when doing nails at home, Antunes said there are plenty of great products to create a similar effect to gel and give your manicure lasting distance, whilst being kind to your nails.

"I personally love Mavala’s Gel Finish Topcoat, OPI Infinite Shine and Dazzle Dry, an amazing non-curing long-wear system with an array of gorgeous colours," she suggested.

If at-home manicures aren't quite your jam, there are also fake nails.

"We have never been more inundated with ‘falsies’ or press-on nail choices like we are at the moment. There are so many different types, designs, lengths. So much fun."

What are your thought on UV lamps? Do you get gel manicures often? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Getty

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