UV Nail Polish Dryers Are Carcinogenic, Scientists Warn

UV Nail Polish Dryers Are Carcinogenic, Scientists Warn

Gel manicures, which require the use of UV nail polish dryers, may be more of a public health risk than was previously understood. The usage of these ultraviolet (UV) light generating devices has been linked to cell death and cancer-causing mutations in human cells, according to research conducted at the University of California, San Diego.

Gel manicures need a specific spectrum of UV light (340-395nm), which is produced by equipment that have become standard fare in nail salons. The UV spectrum used in nail dryers has not been widely investigated, in contrast to the UV spectrum used in tanning beds, which has been shown to cause cancer in several studies.

As you can see, these gadgets are advertised as risk-free and worry-free. Researchers believe, however, that until now no one has looked into the molecular and cellular effects of these devices on human cells.

Twenty to thirty percent cell death was seen after a single 20-minute exposure to these UV-emitting devices, while 65 to seventy percent cell death was observed after three 20-minute exposures in a row.

Mitochondrial and DNA damage in the surviving cells, as well as mutations with patterns similar to those seen in human skin cancer, were all produced by prolonged exposure to UV radiation.

Scientists saw DNA breakage. Researchers found that repeated exposure to a UV nail polish drier causes mutations because part of the DNA damage does not be repaired over time. They discovered, finally, that exposure may lead to mitochondrial malfunction, which in turn can trigger further mutations. When they examined people who had developed skin cancer, they found identical mutation patterns to those seen in the irradiated cells.

While the data demonstrate the negative impact of these devices on human cells over time, the researchers note that a longer-term epidemiological investigation is needed before clearly linking their usage to an elevated risk of skin cancer. The study’s findings, however, were unequivocal: using these nail paint dryers on a regular basis harms human cells.


Researchers subjected the three cell types to either short-term exposure to the UV light device or long-term exposure to the device in order to perform the study. One of the cell kinds was cultured on Petri plates and then was exposed to UV light for 20 minutes in one of these curing devices. After being exposed for 20 minutes, they were given a rest for an hour to recover or rebalance. The cells were exposed chronically for three days, twenty minutes a day, beneath the machine.

Both circumstances led to cell death, damage, and DNA alterations due to an increase in DNA-damaging reactive oxygen species molecules and mitochondrial malfunction. Genomic analysis showed that the irradiated cells had much more somatic mutations, with mutation patterns that are characteristic of all melanoma patients.

The human cell results, when combined with the many reports of cancer in those who receive gel manicures often, present a picture of a cosmetic surgery with more danger than was previously thought. But should those who get gel manicures often be concerned, or only those who get them once a year? There are many of alternatives to this cosmetic operation, so for some people the danger may not be worth it despite the need for further research to assess any elevated risk of cancer and at what frequency of usage.

Anna Daniels

Anna is an avid blogger with an educational background in medicine and mental health. She is a generalist with many other interests including nutrition, women's health, astronomy and photography. In her free time from work and writing, Anna enjoys nature walks, reading, and listening to jazz and classical music.

Post Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.