According to a study in the April 2009 issue of Archives of Dermatology, there's real danger in the dryers most salons use to give nails that hard, smudge-proof finish.
The study examined two healthy, middle aged women with no history of skin cancer and little recreational UV exposure. Both had developed skin cancers on the top of their hands, and reported previous exposure to UV nail lights. Since the study was so small, further investigation is needed, but still, it's scary to those of us who indulge in regular manicures.
New York City dermatologist Dr. Neil Schultz explains that the UV light that comes on halfway through the nail drying cycle is pretty much like setting your polish with a mini tanning bed. "It's incredulous that no one has picked up on this!" he told StyleList.
So every time you place your hands under the dryer, you're not only exposing them to cancer-causing UV-A rays, you're also accelerating the signs of photoaging you commonly worry about on your face -- hello, age spots, wrinkles, loss of elasticity. And most of us don't routinely apply sun protection to our hands, like we do to our face, so it's no wonder so many dermatologists say the backs of the hands reveal a woman's age much more easily then her face.
"People aren't going to die from this, but it is the tip of the iceberg. There's a lag time of 10 to 25 years between UV exposure and the development of cancer cells," says Dr. Schultz. So, you may not see the effects of these nail dryers for years, but they will eventually take their toll.
For those who indulge in run-of-the-mill manicures, avoiding the UV dryer is easy, all we need is a quick-dry top coat and fan and a little more drying time built in before leaving the salon. But for the growing number of women who swear by gel and acrylic manicures, the UV light is required to cure the nails.
We asked Dr. Schultz what the best course of action is if you must use the UV light to get the manicure you want. His suggestion is so simple and easy to do, we wondered why we hadn't thought of it -- before gels, acrylics or polish are applied (but after you hands and feet have been washed and massaged), apply a liberal amount of chemical-free/physical sunscreen all over hands, nails and cuticles. Chemical sunscreen takes 20 minutes absorb and react with your skin before it can protect you from UV rays, so in a time pinch, physical blockers will work best.
Then have the manicurist clean the nail beds in preparation for whatever comes next. This way your hands will be instantly protected from UV damage.
If your salon won't provide the sunscreen, bring your own, you won't regret it.
Here are some good chemical-free/physical sunscreens to try.