Experts warn women about gel manicures

Sarah Wiedersehn

Women who frequently get their nails done have been advised to apply sunscreen beforehand or use fingerless gloves to limit any potential harm from the UV lamps used to harden gel polish.

UV nail lamps are frequently used in salons for acrylic gel manicures and emit similar light to carcinogenic UV tanning beds, warn experts.

In an editorial published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology, a group of plastic surgeons in Ireland say there have been observational case reports linking the use of these lamps to the development of skin cancer on the hand.

"However, the risk associated with these lamps has yet to be truly established," they wrote.

Despite a lack of evidence, the surgeons from the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University Hospital Galway say the use of these UV lamps is controversial and as a precautionary measure people should apply a sunscreen before having a gel manicure.

"The Skin Cancer Foundation in the USA and the American Academy of Dermatology, recommend that prior to a gel manicure, clients should apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to the hands," they wrote.

"The evidence on this subject is variable and often controversial, leaving the health-care provider with no clear conclusion, and further research is warranted."

"In the interim, we agree with the advice that approximately 20 minutes before having a manicure a broad spectrum, high sun protection factor sunscreen is applied to the hands, or the use of fingerless gloves should be considered," they advised.

Sydney-based dermatologist, Associate Professor Stephen Shumack says while there is no current formal recommendation in Australia, the advice is sensible.

A spokesperson for the Australasian College of Dermatologists, Professor Shumack suggested it may only be a matter of time before Australia follows the US lead, likening the situation to the issue associated with solariums.

"Now that we know that the American Academy of Dermatology has put out a recommendation in this regard it does mean that Australian dermatologists will be recommending that people who are having these manicures wear a sunscreen product,"said Professor Shumack.

Cancer Council Australia warned frequent exposure to UV radiation through these lamps can be problematic.

"Generally, these devices emit low levels of UV radiation and people are exposed for very short periods. However, UV damage adds up over time so protecting your hands is recommended," said Heather Walker, Chair National Skin Cancer Committee, Cancer Council Australia: