Gel Manicures: A new cancer source?

By: Eloise Alba When Michelle Obama addressed the values and character of her husband in last year’s Democratic National Convention speech, the world took notice—not only of her inspiring words (or her pink Tracey Reese / J. Crew ensemble) but of her glossy, blue-grey gel manicure (that we now know was Artistic Colour’s Gloss Soak Off Color Gel in “Vogue”). Gel manicures are a nail treatment that uses a special gel to bind synthetic finger nails to natural ones. Alternatively, the gel may be applied over natural nails like polish. The hands are then placed under a UV technology that “cures” the nails. The result is an impeccably colored, chip-free, and long lasting (2 weeks at least) manicure. Gel manicure UV lamp istock Salons and nail devotees argue that it is the best invention to grace the nail care industry. The Skin Cancer Foundation however, is claiming otherwise. In an official statement released, Elizabeth Hale, Vice President of the organization said: “Research has shown that ultraviolet (UV) radiation-emitting devices are carcinogenic to humans. Although studies have shown that the skin cancer risk associated with UVR-emitting nail lamps for gel manicures is very low, it is not insignificant. The risk, according to anecdotal research, is greatest for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the second most common skin cancer. An estimated 700,000 cases of SCC are diagnosed each year in the US, resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths. SCC is mainly caused by chronic UV exposure and is very common on the hands and around the fingernails.” Ms. Hale continues on to discuss the need to apply water resistant sunscreen prior to treatment. “Remember that it will not be fully effective–part of the gel manicure process is cleaning the nails and the skin around the nails and the fingers with acetone,” she asserts. “If they have to remove the prior gel manicure, fingers are soaked in acetone for at least 10 minutes.  No sun protective product will last through it.” So, we’re back to dull and flaky then? It’s nail-biting news indeed.

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