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The increasing popularity of long-lasting gel nails in the past few years have led to safety concerns over the ultraviolet (UV) lamps that are used to "cure" the polish. Gone are the days of the "press-on nails" that seemed so glamorous at one time. Many women now regularly visit their local nail salons for artificial nails that require not only exposure to UV light in order to seal the polish to the natural nail bed but also soaking in acetone to remove the old polish.

But what price beauty? And are skin cancer concerns over the use of UV lamps justified?

Although the risk of using UV nail lamps is low, it seems to be significant enough for the Skin Cancer Foundation to issue [Link Removed] . The risk appears to be greatest for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the second most commonly diagnosed form of skin cancer after basal cell carcinoma. The Skin Cancer Foundation's position seems to be based on the case of two women who developed SCC on their hands and around their nails after repeated exposure to UV nail lamps. In both cases, the women did not have any family history of skin cancer nor did they have jobs that required them to be outdoors for extended periods of time.

Those in the professional beauty and nail salon industry, however, disagree with the warning, maintaining that the UV exposure by nail lamps is very minimal and does not increase the risk of developing skin cancer. A study evaluating the safety of UV nail lamps published in the spring of 2013 seems to support that. Independently co-authored by two well-respected scientists, one of whom is the co-inventor of the SPF sunscreen rating system used in North America today, the study concluded that UV nail lamps were less hazardous than previously believed and that even using a UV nail lamp for 25 minutes a day would be under internationally accepted safety limits for daily workplace UV exposure. Most gel nail treatments require less than 2 minutes under a UV lamp to seal and dry the polish.

Both sides agree on  taking preventive steps to minimize the risk of UV exposure:

*Apply a [Link Removed]  on your hands before starting the manicure  

*Wear fingerless gloves to minimize the amount of skin being exposed to the light  

*Ensure that the nail salon is properly maintaining the lamp with the correct wattage bulbs  

*Opt for a service that uses LED lamps instead  

One thing to keep in mind: if you are currently on medication that recommends limiting exposure to sunlight, you may want to forego the gel nail treatment and choose a regular manicure instead.

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti aging skin care and women's wellness. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed] 

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