Study Finds Link Between UV Nail Polish Dryers & Cancer-Causing Mutations In Cells
The Shade Room
18 January 2023

According to a new study, ultraviolet (UV) nail polish dryers—widely used for gel manicures—have been connected to cellular-level issues that could result in cancer.

The findings were published on Tuesday in the Nature Communications journal, and they were further broken down in a statement from UC San Diego. Through the research, it was found that “radiation emitted by UV nail polish dryers can both damage DNA and permanently engrave mutations” within cells.

In fact, researchers noted that just one 20-minute session can result in “between 20 and 30 percent cell death.” As for the cells that aren’t killed off, it was noted that they can experience DNA damage and undergo mutations that are consistent with observations in people diagnosed with skin cancer.

Researchers Say The Products Are Understudied & ‘Marketed As Safe’
In response to these findings, UCSD professor Dr. Ludmil Alexandrov noted that the products are “marketed as safe” without their molecular-level impacts being understood.

“If you look at the way these devices are presented, they are marketed as safe, with nothing to be concerned about. But to the best of our knowledge, no one has actually studied these devices and how they affect human cells at the molecular and cellular levels until now.”

Alexandrov proceeded to break down just how serious the issue can be, as he says irreparable DNA mutations can occur “after every exposure.” He also emphasized that “the exact same patterns of mutations” are visible in skin cancer patients.

“We saw multiple things: first, we saw that DNA gets damaged. We also saw that some of the DNA damage does not get repaired over time, and it does lead to mutations after every exposure with a UV-nail polish dryer…We looked at patients with skin cancers, and we see the exact same patterns of mutations in these patients that were seen in the irradiated cells.”

Prevalence Of Rare Skin Cancers Among Beauty Pageant Contestants Sparked The Study
Interestingly, Alexandrov notes that he was inspired to look into UV nail polish dryers after reading a story about a beauty pageant contestant who had been diagnosed with an uncommon form of skin cancer on her finger.

“I thought that was odd, so we began looking into it, and noticed a number of reports in medical journals saying that people who get gel manicures very frequently—like pageant contestants and estheticians—are reporting cases of very rare cancers in the fingers, suggesting that this may be something that causes this type of cancer. And what we saw was that there was zero molecular understanding of what these devices were doing to human cells.”

The study’s lead author, Dr. Maria Zhivagui, notably spoke of how her research on the subject led her to swear-off gel manicures.

“When I was doing my Ph.D., I started hearing about gel manicures, which last longer than normal polish..I started using gel manicures periodically for several years. Once I saw the effect of radiation emitted by the gel polish drying device on cell death and that it actually mutates cells even after just one 20-minute session, I was surprised. I found this to be very alarming, and decided to stop using it.”

More Research On The Subject Is Needed
At this point, we should point out that the study’s authors note that “future large-scale epidemiological studies” are needed to “accurately quantify the risk.” This may take some time, though.

“It is likely that such studies will take at least a decade to complete and to subsequently inform the general public.”

However, the results do “strongly suggest” that UV nail polish dryers “may increase the risk of early-onset skin cancer.”

What do you think about the findings?