Gel nails and gel nail polishes have become a growing trend among American women. Similar to acrylic nails, gel nails are made from a monomer liquid that is combined with a polymer powder. This formula creates long polymer strands and once dried, those strands create a hard resin on top of the natural nail. Gel nails also contain shorter strands, called oligomers, which make the nail more flexible.
In order for the gel to harden, nails must be placed under a UV lamp, exposing the surrounding skin to UV light. As a result, many have asked if this exposure might lead to skin cancer. Some dermatologists have gone as far as claiming that these nail lamps are as damaging to the skin as tanning beds. However, according to an article published by WebMD Health News, the development of skin cancer as a result of exposure from a nail lamp is highly unlikely.
According to Dr. Alina Markova of Massachusetts General Hospital, “Nail lamps are safe for over 250 years of weekly manicures, and even then there would be a low risk of skin cancer.” Dr. Markova goes on to say that the lamps are not completely risk free, but that they pose little risk.
In a different article, dermatologist and clinical researcher, Dr. Susan Taylor shared her concerns relating to gel nails -- one being exposure to UV light. She also mentioned the exposure to a chemical ingredient call methyl acrylate, which has been known to cause a rash when it comes in contact with the skin, and also that constant application and removal of gel polish will lead to weaker and flaking nails over time. Her suggestion to counter these potential problems is to moisturize your nails several times a day.Dr. Markova has been one of the only researchers to conduct a credible study on the effects of the UV lamp. So without further information, it is difficult to determine the safety of gel manicures. As a dermatologist, I never promote the use of artificial UV lamps if not 100% necessary. So the question you would need to ask yourself is whether or not even a minimal risk is worth a long lasting manicure.