The Hidden Health Risks of Gel Manicures

According to WebMD, the sales for nail polish have reached nearly $800 million a year in the United States. But women don’t want to spend money on polish that will chip and fade away in just a few days. So now they have the option of gel polishes that offer a two to four-week staying power. According to cosmetic chemist Ni’kita Wilson, CEO and co-owner of Catalyst Cosmetic Development in Union, “gel polishes last longer and resist chipping.” Unfortunately, there is a negative aspect to gel manicures that stems from the UV-curing step.

One of the dangers that come with gel manicures is the increased risk of nail thinning says WebMD. But that’s not the main concern here. The main concern is the UV radiation from nail lamps. In 2009, a study was conducted by scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute that mapped the genetic material that composed melanoma taken from a patient that had the disease. Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops from pigment-containing cells known as melanocytes.

Using advanced molecular technology, the scientists were able to identify thousands of mutations; the vast majority were caused by UV radiation. It’s unclear to what extent UV radiation influences the development of melanoma; this research does indicate that there is a link between them. However, Chris Adigun, MD states that the UV exposure from these lamps is not enough to warrant a high risk of developing malignant cancer.

Warning Signs of Melanoma: Just because the there isn’t enough exposure to warrant a high risk of melanoma, doesn’t mean people who are getting gel manicures shouldn’t be aware of the warning signs of it. The first warning sign is asymmetry; this is when one half of the mole does not match the other half of it, according to WebMD. The easiest way to determine this is to draw an imaginary line through the middle and compare them.

Another warning sign is a border. WebMD explains that border is when the edges of the mole are blurred, ragged or even irregular. Melanoma lesions will often have uneven borders. Another sign is color. According to WebMD, a mole that has different shades of color which could be tan, blue, black, white or brown, is suspicious. Normally, moles only have one shade of color, they add. Diameter is another warning sign, says WebMD. If the mole is larger than the eraser on a pencil, it may be a cause for concern. If your mole is evolving, which means that it is shrinking, growing bigger, changing color, itching or bleeding, you should get it checked out. WebMD states that melanoma lesions will often grow larger and change in height quickly.

Other Health Risks of Nail Polish: A study was conducted by Dr. Heather Stapleton that tested for signs of chemical toxins in nail polish on 24 women. Results indicate that 100% of the participating women showed signs of triphenyl phosphate 10 hours after applying nail polish. Stapleton voiced her concern by stating that “There is growing evidence suggesting that TPHP may affect hormone regulation, metabolism, reproduction, and development.”

How to Protect Yourself: According to scientist Valetti Lang, acting manager of the Pollution Prevention Branch of the Department of Toxic Substances Control for the California Environmental Protection Agency, the labeling does not always reflect the ingredients that are in the nail polish. So scientist Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group says that people who are getting their nails polished should skip the polish and buff their nails for a more natural shine. She adds that the chemicals in these nail polish products have well-established concerns, so it should not be a concern for consumers.

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