Gel Manicures Raise Health Worries

Doctor recommends using sunscreen when getting gel polish treatment

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A North Texas doctor recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater and cutting the exposure time as much as possible when getting gel manicures. (Published Monday, Mar 26, 2012)

    A popular manicure technique that earns raves for its lasting power is also raising concerns.

    Gel manicures promise polish that lasts two weeks. The process requires four or five coats of polish, each cured to a rock-hard finish under a UV light.

    Dr. Paul Martinelli, of the Texas Skin Surgery Center at Baylor Plano, said the light predominantly emit radiation in the UVA range, the ultraviolet A range.

    "And this is the same range, the same light source that's predominantly used in tanning beds, and it's known to be carcinogenic and, over time, will cause an increased risk or association of skin cancers of all kinds, including melanoma," Martinelli said.

    But Martinelli said it's hard to quantify the risk.

    "I've seen cases with women who've had squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, on the back of hands and back of the fingers who have used these devices," he said. "I can't say it caused them. It's just a correlation."

    Martinelli said UVA can also cause the skin to prematurely age.

    He recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater and cutting the exposure time as much as possible when getting gel manicures.

    The Spa at The Crescent in Dallas uses special LED lights that cure in 90 seconds rather than 10 to 12 minutes like traditional UV lights.

    "There's discussion about whether UVA or UVB lights in spas can cause problems, so we really wanted to avoid that whole issue," says Adrian Norbury, Rosewood Crescent Hotel spokesman.

    The quicker drying time also allows technicians to add a hand massage at the end of the appointment.