Are Gel Manicures Safe? | Sainte Nèl

Are Gel Manicures Safe? | Sainte Nèl

Is Gel Nail Polish Safe?

You may have heard about a study that’s been making the rounds in the news this week regarding UV Lights used for gel manicures and an increased risk of cancer. 

At Sainte Nèl, we love research because we want as much information as possible in order to make informed decisions about our beauty routines. 

So let’s break down the article and see what the issues are. 

A quick note, we aren’t doctors here at Sainte Nèl, so nothing we write should be taken as medical advice. 

What did the study reveal?

Let’s state outright that the study did not conclude that getting gel manicures will give you cancer. So if you have gel on your hands right now, do not panic. 

The researchers have opined however, that radiation from UV nail dryers can damage DNA and cause permanent mutations in human cells. Cell damage can be related to an increased risk of cancer – hence the headlines. 

In the study, they used 3 different types of cell lines, including adult human skin cells, and exposed them to UV lights. After 20 minutes of continuous exposure, they observed that 20-30% of the cells died and after 60 minutes of exposure, 65-70% of the cells died.  

Cell death is nothing to play with. So if you have an increased risk for cancer, and especially skin cancer, you should consult a medical professional before further gel manicures. 

However, there are a few important differences between the study and the gel manicures you know and love. 

Anyone that’s gotten a gel manicure knows your nail is under the UV light for mere seconds. It is highly unlikely that you would hold your hands under there for 20 minutes, which is the exposure time used in the study. 

Another difference is that the researchers studied cells, not actual human hands. Unlike the cells in the study, our skin is made up of multiple layers of skin intended to protect us against external harm, like radiation.

Lastly, other studies performed before this most recent one, have revealed no increased risk of cancer. So there is no consensus among the medical community at this time, and thus, there can’t be one in the nail care community either. 

So, are gel manicures safe? 

Like almost everything in our modern world, it's up to each individual to decide their risk tolerance and make decisions accordingly. Remember the potentially harmful effects of UV lights are cumulative, meaning the more you expose yourself the greater the risk

What if I still want a gel manicure?

The UV lights used for gel manicures are the same type of light used in many dental procedures (ever had a filling?) and in tanning machines. However, there’s been little research on these lights in the context of nail care. We expect, and hope, that more studies will be done in the future because we want to be informed consumers above all. 

If this study worries you. We get it. Luckily for you, there are still lots of other nail care options for you. You can wear non UV Gel polish or you can wear no polish at all. 

If this study made you look twice but you have no intention of abandoning gel (I mean, it lasts for 3 weeks!). We get that too!

If you still want to use gel, the only thing you can do is stay informed on the research and protect yourself. Here’s some tips from Sainte Nèl

  1.  ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, apply sunscreen to your hands before you use the UV light. Or buy some UV protective gloves to use during your gel mani. 
  2. Use alternatives. You can cure gel polish with an LED light, which does not use radiation. If you aren’t sure if your salon uses UV or LED, just ask them. You can also try out dipping powders or press-on nails. 
  3. Don’t use gel too much. Be nice to your natural nails and give them a break every once in a while. Use regular non toxic nail polish during your break. 

Last note, be sure to use a vegan uv gel polish when you go to the salon. 



If you would like a link to the full study you can find it here.