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Damaged DNA and Increased Cancer Risk Linked to Common Grooming Tool, Study Warns

A new study has revealed that the ultraviolet light from UV nail dryers may increase the risk of developing cancer-causing mutations and can damage DNA.

The study, published in January in Nature Communications, was conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Pittsburgh.

UV nail dryers use ultraviolet light to cure gel nail manicures. They have become quite popular in recent years and are in common use in both homes and nail salons.

However, the researchers found that human and mouse cells died when exposed to the typical amount of radiation used in UV nail dryers.

Specifically, the study revealed that a 20-minute session under a UV nail dryer led to 20 to 30 percent of cells dying. Repeating this process three times caused 65 to 70 percent of the exposed cells to die.

The cells that survived suffered mitochondrial and DNA damage and developed mutations often seen in skin cancer, according to a news release on the study.

Ultraviolet light has a wavelength of 10 to 400 nanometers. The higher the wavelength, the deeper the radiation penetrates the skin.

UV nail dryers typically use light with a wavelength of 340 to 395 nanometers, around the same as the light used in tanning beds.

“Tanning beds are listed as carcinogenic and UV nail lamps are mini tanning beds for your nails,” Dr. Julia Curtis, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Utah, told CNN.

The study has caused one of its authors, Maria Zhivagui, to swear off UV nail dryers.

“Once I saw the effect of radiation emitted by the gel polish drying device on cell death and that it actually mutates cells even after just one 20-minute session, I was surprised,” she said in the news release.

“I found this to be very alarming, and decided to stop using it.”

Author Ludmil Alexandrov noted that this is seemingly the first study of the effects and possible risks of the ubiquitous nail dryers.

“If you look at the way these devices are presented, they are marketed as safe, with nothing to be concerned about,” Alexandrov said.

“But to the best of our knowledge, no one has actually studied these devices and how they affect human cells at the molecular and cellular levels until now.”

Curtis suggested taking some precautionary measures when using a UV nail lamp.

“Apply broad spectrum sunblock that contains zinc and titanium around the nails, and wear UV gloves with the fingertips cut off when it is time to cure your nails,” she recommended.

Dr. Joshua Zeichner, an associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, went even further.

“Unfortunately, full protection is not possible, so my best recommendation is to avoid these dryers altogether,” he told CNN.

  • Auntie Vyris® says:

    Ladies, it’s no great loss. We like you just the way you are, without the fancy garish nails, fake eyelashes, and balloon brests.

    • Pat says:

      I’m sure there are many women, like me, who’s nails split and crack. The ONLY way I can control that is to have gel polish on them, otherwise, my nails are a mess. I used to be able to get a cream that worked but it’s no longer available, so this is my only remedy. I will ask my nail tech not to use the UV nail dryer though.

  • S says:

    They say 20 minsof exposure . It takes 1 min x 3 not 20 mins. Nobody leaves their fingers in for more than a few mins. So lets here about a study based on actual real usage and not excessive usage.

    • Nana says:

      OK, so you only get 35% of the radiation that 20 minutes would cause, yep, count me in….

      • Threelies One says:

        Sorry nana, that’s not how math works.
        Furthermore, people have been using tanning beds for decades with 20-30 minute sessions, each time exposing their entire bodies, which would be Equivelant to spending 1 to 1½ hours outside. That means that exposing your fingers to uv light for 3 minutes is equivelant to 9 minutes of exposure to sunlight.
        Sounds a lot like that idiotic proposition 65 warning that califuckedup has.

  • b says:

    Who cures their nails for 20 minutes? It takes about a total of 4.5 minutes per hand to dry base, polish, and top coat on each hand at 90 seconds per session. Twenty minutes is extreme! You can also “dry” them in a bowl of ice water. Takes about 1 minute per coat.

  • vickie says:


  • Lynne says:

    This wouldn’t be a way to take the light off of the jabs and the harm they cause many people would it? And as time goes by, we’re going to see a lot more damage being caused by them. Trying to get people to blame other things instead now, will keep them from questioning if health problems that show up years after the jabs are from the jabs.



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