Safety of LED nail lamps

Ask the doctors

Are nail salon lamps safe?

Q. I was worried about drying my nails with a lamp or light box at the nail salon because of the potential risk of cancer from the ultraviolet radiation, but my salon recently switched to LED lamps. Are they safer?

A. The light boxes used to cure polish during gel manicures, and to dry traditional nail polish, have raised some concern because — like tanning beds — they emit ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, which is associated with a higher cancer risk. A 2014 study in JAMA Dermatology found that the level of UVA exposure associated with a gel manicure every two weeks probably isn't high enough to increase the risk of skin cancer significantly, but you are wise to be aware of the issue.

The bad news is that while some lamps are referred to as UV lamps and others as LED lamps, both emit ultraviolet radiation — predominantly in the form of UVA, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. So, regardless of the type of lamp, it's a good idea to follow the same recommendations we've offered in the past — protect your hands from UVA exposure by wearing sunscreen on your hands or slipping on a pair of fingerless gloves during your manicure to give your skin some added protection from the potentially damaging UVA radiation.

— by Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.
Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Image credit: © LightFieldStudios - iStock

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