Hello dear readers,
I’ve had many people tell me that they want to try gel polish but have heard that the UV/LED lamps used to cure it causes skin cancer, thank you Dr Oz and mainstream media! Now, I’m not a scientist, chemist or professional nail technician, I’m just a DIYer who likes be informed and I’m somewhat of a geek and the science part kind of fascinates me, so I set out to find more information about the possible risks of UV/LED lamp exposure. The purpose of this post is not say that UV/LED lamps are perfectly safe or that they definitely cause cancer. You know what is best for you and your skin, I simply want to provide you with some more information than you may already know about so you can make a more informed decision. Here is what I learned.
UV and LED lamps both emit ultraviolet rays. Here is a graph of the electromagnetic spectrum.
UV/LED lamps utilize the UV-A part of the spectrum to cure the gel with very little or no part of the UV-B and none of the UV-C used. UV lamps use a broader area of the spectrum while LED lamps use a narrower area as illustrated by the graph below.
The Reports and Studies:
In 2009 a report was published that sited the cases of 2 Texas woman that had developed skin cancer on the fingers. The report went on to attribute the cause of the cancer to the women’s exposure to UV nail lamps. One women had been getting acrylic nail services and gel topcoat twice monthly for 15 years and the other woman had 8 UV lamp exposures in 1 year before she developed skin cancer a few years later. Read full report here.
In response to the 2009 report, 3 expert chemists, Doug Schoon, Paul Bryson and Jim McConnell came out with their own report stating their findings that UV nail lamps (they did not test any LED lamps) have a very low skin cancer risk, stating that the exposure from UV nail lamps was equivalent to spending an additional 1.5 to 2.7 minutes in natural sunlight per day between nail services. Their paper states that the 2009 report incorrectly compares nail lamp exposure to that of tanning beds and makes other incorrect assumptions. It should be noted that all 3 of the chemists work for companies that manufacture gel products and UV lamps, CND, OPI and Light Elegance, respectively. Read full report here.
And finally, this December 2013 paper from the Journal of Investigative Dermatology shows the results from their testing of UV/LED lamps. They tested 3 devices, a UV lamp with two 9 watt bulbs, a UV lamp with four 9 watt bulbs and an LED lamp with six 1 watt LED bulbs. They compared the UV output of the lamps to the UV output from a typical treatment course of a narrowband UVB phototherapy device (these emit UV-B rays and are used for therapy for certain skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema). In a nutshell, they found that it would require 13,000 10 minute sessions of the the UV lamps and 40,000 10 minute sessions of the LED lamp to equal the same UV dosage from the phototherapy device or more simply put, it would require over 250 years of weekly UV/LED lamp sessions to equal the same UV risk. They concluded that the lamps did not produce a clinically significant risk of skin cancer. The report also points out the incorrect and misleading methods and conclusions from the previous 2 papers. Read full report here.
I know that’s a lot of scientific stuff to take in but hopefully this information is enough to provide a different perspective on the UV exposure controversy.
If you are still concerned about your UV exposure, there are some steps you can take to further protect yourself.
1. Limit UV lamp exposure to 1-2 times per month.
2. Use an LED lamp. Cure times are shorter thus reducing UV exposure.
4. Wear UV protecting gloves
I hope you have this helpful. I welcome any comments or questions you have.