This Type Of Nail Polish May Cause Cancer, According To Research

How can getting your nails painted lead to skin cancer?

concerned woman looking at her nails Dean Drobot | Shutterstock

You may have fallen victim to loving gel nails and understandably so — three weeks without any chipping? Yes, please!

But doctors say that the trend may be more harmful to your health than it's worth. Dermatologist Dr. John Humeniuk warns against using the very gel nail polish that the beauty industry seems to be pushing more and more.

Why the sudden hesitation? The beauty process might cause cancer. GULP.


Your gel nail polish manicures may cause cancer, according to research.

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The polish itself is not what's causing the cancer, but it's actually the drying process for the nails that could pose a risk. 


"We wanted to devise this study and design it in order to ... address questions about the potential harms of these artificial UV lamps," says Maria Zhivagui a postdoctoral researcher at UC San Diego and the first author of the study who focuses on public health and cancer prevention research.

"Some concerns were raised several years ago about the possibility of skin cancers from using ultraviolet lights," Humeniuk tells WHNS. “These ultraviolet units are actually the same kind of bulbs essentially you see in tanning beds.”

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How did they come to this conclusion? By testing three different cell types, with two being from humans and one from mice, with different levels of exposure to UV rays. 


Then, the Petri dishes were placed in a UV machine for 20 minutes, then taken out for an hour, and placed back in for another 20 minutes. Under chronic exposure, they were placed under the machine for 20 minutes a day for three days. What did the results show them?

Researchers found that one 20-minute session resulted in 20-30% cell death, while three consecutive sessions caused 65-70% of the exposed cells to die. UV exposure also caused mitochondrial and DNA damage in the remaining cells.

But wait. That's not all: In the same way you can contract herpes from tanning beds, you can also pick up pretty disgusting stuff from gel manicures, too.

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On top of using very  UV lights, the doctors said gel manicures require fingers and nails to be soaked in strong acetone to remove the excess gel residue, that can leave your skin prone to bacteria.

“The use of these gels and these acrylics the light will actually cause the original nail plate to actually separate from the bed and now you have a gap where moisture or bacteria and yeast can grow.” Humeniuk continues.

What does this look like on someone who has it? "In lighter patients, it could look more pink or red," she says. "In people with darker skin types, it may look more purple to brown."


Ugh, this sucks — welcome back dull, chipped paint.

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Nicole Weaver is a senior writer for Showbiz Cheat Sheet whose work has been featured in New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, and more.