Do I need “manicure” gloves to shield my hands to use the UV light at the end of the polish application?
So, Do I Need “Manicure” Gloves to get my nail polish dry and set up after a manicure? There are so many times we have just sat down and paid little attention to the harm we were doing to our skin while we go about our daily lives.
The FDA States That There Is Some Danger
The FDA states that there is some danger!
While waiting for my manicure appointment a few days ago, I was just people-watching. Then I noticed that client was moving over from the pedicure side to the manicure side.
Apparently, she had decided to have a manicure as well. She sat down in the chair next to me and pulled a pair of gloves out of her bag. She didn’t put them on but laid them across the top of her bag.
We chatted a little, I was called to an empty spot at a manicure table, and my new friend was again placed next to me, just a bit later.
We had our manicures, at least to the polish application complete, and I noticed that she reached for the gloves that were still on top of her bag. She was visiting with her nail tech about how she had decided last year to be more careful. “More aware,” she said.
I wasn’t really sure what she was referring to, so being more than a little nosey, I listened.
She said that her cousin had developed skin cancer, so there was a family risk, for skin cancer. Then she had realized that she had not been as careful as she could have in the past.
I guess she was kind of self-conscious about her next statement and dropped her voice too low for me to hear.
By now she has gloves with no fingertips smoothed on and is reaching forward to have the nail polish applied!
I don’t get out much and I needed to know what was going on with these gloves during a manicure. I finally asked!
“This is how I protect my hands from more UV lights.” Her reply was news to me!
How To Protect My Hands From UV Lamps
I was confused, to say the least. Why did I need to protect my hands when getting a manicure!
It turns out that the gloves were to protect her hands from the UV rays of the nail-drying lamp! The holes at the tips of her fingers are in place to give the nail tech access to her nails!
My mind was blown!
As I sat there, worried about the burning feeling that happens when the gel is applied too thickly, not saying a word. It dawned on me that I’d never considered whether any part of this process could be doing my skin any damage!
So I turned to my nail tech and asked several questions. She assured me that it was not dangerous. That I didn’t need “funny gloves” to finish my manicure safely.
At least, that is what I thought she said. She wouldn’t allow me to leave till my polish was set, perfect.
“Dry Lamp safe,” she assured me.
But, it could be that she didn’t know either! The nail care industry has well over a hundred million salons in the USA alone, making it at least a $75,000,000.00 industry in 2020. This is a competitive and protective industry.
Gel nails and polishes are big business, and the UV drying/setting lamp is an important part of the successful process. I didn’t skip the step!
But can they cause my skin any damage?
In short, the answer is yes.
Will Nail Lamps Age Your Skin
We tend to associate the thought of aging skin with our faces. Does the rest of our skin get older? What do you think?
Of course, all our skin ages! Hands can be more prone than other body parts because they are being exposed to the outdoors more.
Aging is impacted by many factors.
“The skin on your hands, like skin elsewhere on your body, undergoes both intrinsic and extrinsic aging,” says Paul Banwell a Plastic & Cosmetic Surgeon based in the South East of England.
The ‘Extrinsic aging’ is caused by environmental factors such as sun exposure, chemicals, and smoking.
‘These factors will directly affect both the epidermis and dermal layers of your skin. And some of the results are uneven pigmentation and premature aging.’
We now have manicures to contend with as well. Manicures with gel nail polish cured by a UV lamp to make it last as long as possible!
Then you add the fact that UV light curing products have really not been around long enough for a great deal of data to be collected and analyzed.
Are these drying lamps safe? How much is too much exposure? Who knows?
Information From The FDA About Nail Drying Lamps And Some Nail Care Products
Warnings From The FDA
If you’re concerned about potential risks from UV exposure, you can avoid using these lamps.
It may be even more important for you to avoid these lamps if you’re using certain medications or supplements that make you more sensitive to UV rays.
These medications include some antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and estrogens. An example of supplements to avoid is St. John’s Wort.
You should also remove cosmetics, fragrances, and skincare products (except sunscreen!) before using these lamps, as some of these products can make you more sensitive to UV rays.
Cosmetic ingredients (except most color additives) and products, including nail products, do not need FDA approval before they go on the market.
But these products are required to be safe when used as intended. (Note that nail products intended to treat medical problems are classified as drugs and do require FDA approval.)
Cosmetic nail care products also must include any instructions or warnings needed to use them safely. For example:
- Some nail products can catch fire easily so you should not expose them to flames (such as from a lit cigarette) or heat sources (such as a curling iron).
- Then some products can injure your eyes, so you should use extra caution to avoid this exposure.
- There are some should only be used in areas with very good air circulation (ventilation).
- Some ingredients can be harmful if swallowed, so these products should never be consumed by any person or pet.
More Warnings From FDA
Retail cosmetics such as those sold in stores or online must list ingredients in the order of decreasing amounts.
If you’re concerned about certain ingredients, you can check the label and avoid using products with those ingredients.
For example, some nail hardeners and nail polishes may contain formaldehyde, which can cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction.
Acrylics, used in some artificial nails and sometimes in nail polishes, can cause allergic reactions.
(To learn more about ingredients, visit the FDA’s nail care products webpage.)
Bottom Line As Advised By FDA
Read the labels of cosmetic products and follow all instructions. When you go to a salon for a manicure or pedicure, make sure the space has good ventilation. If not you may get too much of the strong smell left in the air during use.
The FDA cannot be your advocate to avoid cancer. They have too much to control and are not set up for speed. Products come to market faster than they can be properly regulated.
You have to be responsible and do some checking on your own.
I was completely blindsided by this question of a drying lamp causing cancer.
I will be doing more of my own research before the government regulates. As serious as skin cancer is, I don’t feel that it is safe to wait until the FDA has time to do what they do.
About Nail Drying And Curing Lamps—And UV Exposure
From the FDA Website:
Ultraviolet (UV) nail curing lamps are table-top size units used to dry or “cure” acrylic or gel nails and gel nail polish.
These devices are used in salons and sold online. They feature lamps or LEDs that emit UV (ultraviolet) radiation.
Nail curing lamps are different than sunlamps, which are sometimes called “tanning beds.” You can learn more about the risks of sunlamps on the FDA’s website.)
Exposure to UV radiation can cause damage to your skin, especially if you’re exposed over time.
This exposure can cause your skin to have premature wrinkles, age spots, and even skin cancer.
But the FDA views nail curing lamps as low risk when used as directed on the label.
For example, a 2013 published study indicated that “even for the worst-case lamp that was evaluated” 30 minutes of daily exposure to this lamp was below the occupational exposure limits for UV radiation.
FDA Limits Apply For Normal Healthy People.
Note that these limits only apply when you are a normal, healthy person and not to people who may have a condition that makes them extra sensitive to UV radiation.
So who doesn’t have a “normal” condition? One that comes to mind is are you pregnant? Do you have an autoimmune disease? Do you tolerate the sun well one time? Burn quickly the next.
Did you check the list of medications that can cause you to not be considered “normal?” There are too many open questions that people ignore because they want a manicure!
( Do you ignore warnings to tan, and tan anyway? No, maybe you haven’t had a problem, Yet!)
To date, the FDA has not received any reports of burns or skin cancer attributed to these lamps. (last updated in 2016)
Obviously, the innovations are happening too fast for the inspections to be properly done. Manufacturers work under the theory that it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.
We would be crazy to think that products manufactured in other countries will keep us safe here in the USA. They have their standards, and they may be different from ours.
Are LED Nail Dryers Dangerous To Use?
Are these LED nail dryers bad for you?
Most of the rays are UVA rays. Ultra Violet A ( A = aging) is linked to both premature skin aging and skin cancer.
Is UV LED Harmful?
UV LEDs emit intense UV light during operation.
Do not look directly into a UV LED while it is in operation, as it can be harmful to the eyes, even for brief periods.
If several UV LEDs are used together and/or at high output operation, avoid prolonged exposure to skin or other eyes.
These forms of light are dangerous and need to be used with caution. If you are a nail tech, are you given the chance to train using these concentrated forms of Ultra-Violet Radiation?
Why Do My Nails Burn Under UV Light?
Any pain or burning that you feel when you place your hand in the UV lamp is called “heat transfer”.
This is the gel curing which is basically shrinking while it hardens on the natural nail.
The UVA light is attracted to the polymers in the gel which harden as the light penetrates them.
What Does Nail Cancer Look Like?
Nail cancer is usually identified by the light- to the dark-brown colored band on the nail that’s usually vertical.
Similar to a dark band on the nail that slowly expands and covers more of the nail.
The dark nail pigmentation expands to the surrounding skin.
Skin Cancer can also be a nodule underneath the nail with or without a pigmentation band.
Because gel nails are a relatively new product like the last 10 years are everywhere there just has not been time to get research examines and tested.
The medical professionals will soon be giving us new information and you have to stay caught up and aware. If manicures are important for you, make sure to stay alert for more information.
If you have questions about using nail drying or curing lamps, consult a health care professional.
How To Use A Nail Lamp
And if you do choose to use these devices, you can reduce UV exposure by:
- Wearing UV-absorbing gloves that expose only your nais.
- Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Finally, nail curing lamps should come with instructions for the length of exposure time.
The shorter your exposure, the less risky the exposure, in general. So always follow labeled directions when available.
In general, you should not use these devices for more than 10 minutes per hand, per session.
For the lamp to be able to cure the nails or polish, they have to have the UVA spectrum of light rays. These light rays can contribute to the aging of the skin on your hands.
UVA rays are not as intense as the UVB rays that are responsible for burning. They do penetrate into the deeper layers of your skin.
In time the penetration into the dermis will cause damage to the DNA and collagen of the skin. Remember, skin damage is the result of repeated exposure.
Repeated exposure leads to damage to your skin cells. This kind of damage is the kind that causes wrinkles, dull-looking, and sagging skin, and hyperpigmentation.
The hyperpigmentation or age spots are mostly preventable if we protect our skin from UVA rays.
Can LED Nail Dryers Cause Cancer
Yes, it is possible for LED Nail Dyers to cause cancer with repeated use. Besides aging your skin, using gel polishes that require UV light for curing can lead to other skin problems.
According to the FDA, there are no known cases of cancer from the lamps alone. However, the skin is damaged through repeated use. There is no way to know when you have used up all your safe times.
Another consideration is, are all lamps the same in the amount of UV they emmit? How do you know the one you are using is safe?
Photo-ageing in your hands, repeated UV exposure can cause you to develop allergic contact dermatitis to acrylates in the gel part of the formula.
This causes an eczema-like reaction, with redness, peeling, sore fingers, and even eyelid eczema from rubbing your fingertips along your eyelids.
Is UV LED Light Harmful
We have already been reminded about repeated exposure and the dangers there. This light can also affect you more quickly if you are taking certain types of medication!
This list is from the FDA website.
- Antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, levofloxacin, ofloxacin, tetracycline, trimethoprim)
- Antifungals (flucytosine, griseofulvin, voricanozole)
- Antihistamines (cetirizine, diphenhydramine, loratadine, promethazine, cyproheptadine)
- Cholesterol lowering drugs (simvastatin, atorvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin)
- Diuretics (thiazide diuretics: hydrochlorothiazide, chlorthalidone, chlorothiazide.; other diuretics: furosemide and triamterene)
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib, piroxicam, ketoprofen)
- Oral contraceptives and estrogens
- Phenothiazines (tranquilizers, anti-emetics: examples, chlorpromazine, fluphenazine, promethazine, thioridazine, prochloroperazine)
- Psoralens (methoxsalen, trioxsalen)
- Retinoids (acitretin, isotretinoin)
- Sulfonamides (acetazolamide, sulfadiazine, sulfamethizole, sulfamethoxazole, sulfapyridine, sulfasalazine, sulfasoxazole)
- Sulfonylureas for type 2 diabetes (glipizide, glyburide)
- Alpha-hydroxy acids in cosmetics
Not everyone who takes or uses the medicines in this list will have a reaction.
Can A Manicure Cause Skin Cancer?
So, will exposure to nail lamps actually lead to skin cancer?
In theory, yes. The possibility is there. The risk is relatively low. Unless you are in the sun a lot!
Repeated exposure to the manicure lamps can absolutely add cumulative damage to the skin over the years. For skin cancer, patients are in their 50’s before cancer shows up.
Most cases of skin cancer are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, tanning beds, or sunlamps so, yes, repeated exposure to the gel lamps without sun protection could indeed lead to skin cancer.’
Again, current research suggests that the risk of getting skin cancer from using nail lamps is low. Do you live in a cave and never get too much sun?
Then manicure lamps probably show little danger for you. Just be aware that there are random skin cancers being reported that the patient feels the light in the manicure lamp was responsible.
There just aren’t enough yet to bring the FDA into the picture.
You are going to have to monitor your time. The longer you expose your hands and nails to a UV lamp, the higher the chances of advanced skin reactions.
Until we know differently, dermatologists and other skin experts recommend you protect the skin on your hands when getting a gel manicure.
What Is Your Risk?
New information usually causes a ripple. When it is about something that we don’t generally pay enough attention to? What next?
There aren’t really any clear guidelines in terms of what is an acceptable amount of exposure, for someone who is going regularly to get their nails done.
There are some steps that you can take to protect your skin.
At the end of the preparation for the polish step of your manicure, ask your manicure tech to apply a layer of sunscreen. Bring your product, just ask for help so that the tech knows if she gets any on your nail themselves.
Then slip on a pair of sun blocking manicure gloves. They are usually a dark color that will absorb the rays you are protecting from. This will keep them from being reflected on your face.
This also makes you aware of why you need sunscreen. for protection for all sources of reflecting light rays.
Protecting The Skin On Your Hands Is Important
Protecting your skin from damaging UV rays is a key part in the battle against skin cancer.
In this day and time, skin protection in the form of SPF is better and more advanced than ever before. However, people continue to apply it too sparingly and not often enough.
Guidelines suggest you should apply around 1 teaspoon of sunscreen to each hand. As well, you should and make sure that you apply thoroughly, including in between your fingers.
It’s best to choose a broad spectrum SPF because of the better protection.
Apply your sunscreen first thing in the morning with your usual skincare routine. Reapply regularly throughout the day.
So should you be wearing SPF next time you go for a manicure?
What Kind Of Manicure Gloves
Sun blocking manicure gloves are becoming a popular item. The larger clothing companies are quick to realize they need their clients to have. To protect themselves from light and sun rays.
Meanwhile, the manicuring industry itself is filling any needs as they see their clients using the gloves to protect themselves. Finding a pair that are comfortable and block the lights rays will keep you safer.
Sami’s Take On Do I Need “Manicure” Gloves?
As my focus is sun blocking clothing, I had not considered the need for manicure gloves. However, it was interesting to find out about them, and from someone who is keeping her risk of ugly skin on her hands low.
As we are learning, too late for some like me who have rushed willy-nilly through life at the expense of my skin.
Is this an overreaction? The data is not there yet but will be soon. Until that time, I will be adding a pair of manicure gloves to my sun blocking wardrobe.
I don’t want any more damage than I have. I plan to be diligent with my sun hat, and sunglasses, and sun blocking shirt. Adding sunscreen a few times a day.
It is a bit late in life for me, but maybe you will through more awareness take better care of your skin. I am also shopping for a pair of leather driving gloves. This information makes me aware of the amount of exposure when I am driving.
Of course, here too, too little, too late.
Will you be more careful with your skin?
A Bit Of Food For Thought
How about wearing a lightweight long-sleeve shirt for your manicure. If those rays reflect on your arms and chest, do you have a fresh application of sunscreen? That amount you applied this morning was probably enough for a while, but how long ago was that?
There are many ways we can protect ourselves from the sun. Are you using the best one for you? Sun blocking clothing is an important layer of your skin defense team/