Parkland Medical Center - March 02, 2020

UV exposure is a concern

A manicure is a simple luxury that can make you feel more polished. Gel manicures offer higher shine and durability and have become increasingly popular as the products and process have improved. But a gel manicure still requires ultraviolet (UV) light to set and harden. Is this UV exposure harmful?

The truth is any exposure to UV light can damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. And though exposure during a gel manicure is brief, the UV rays emitted by nail salon curing lamps can be up to four times stronger than the sun. LED lamps are not a safer alternative, as they still emit UV light.

This exposure can have a cumulative effect, especially if you get your nails done often or start at a young age. So do you have to give up gel manicures to protect yourself?

Not necessarily. If you’re sensitive to UV light, you shouldn’t get a gel manicure, but otherwise, some simple precautions can reduce your exposure and risk:

Use the right polish for your lamp, and use as directed

If you do your nails at home, make sure you stick to the products designed for use with your curing lamp and use the lamp for the recommended amount of time—no longer.

Wear gloves that expose only your fingertips

For the best protection, use gloves with UV protection designed for use with gel manicures. Otherwise, use a dark pair of gloves with the fingertips cut out.

Use sunscreen

Make sure it offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and apply it to your hands and wrists.

By taking these steps, you can enjoy your gel manicure and minimize any risk from UV exposure. So shine on—just make sure you’re protected.

American Academy of Dermatology. Gel manicures: The good, the bad and the UV. Accessed February 2, 2016.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. How to safely use nail care products. Accessed September 20, 2019.