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Gel manicures can increase your risk of cancer, according to dermatologists


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Photo: Stocksy/Natalie Jeffcott

Gel manicures always come hand in hand with a twinge of guilt. While the rock-hard polish has some serious staying power, drying your hands under the warm glow of those UV or LED (they still emit UVA light) curing lamps feels a little…wrong. Turns out, your gut reaction isn’t failing you: There are some dangers involved, and not just because of the chemicals.

In the past, the American Academy of Dermatology has warned nail salon frequenters that, although your time spent using the lamps is short, those UV rays are four times stronger than that of the sun, which can really add up over longtime use. Just ask Karolina Jasko, a 20-year-old Illinois woman, who told Fox 32 that she found out the hard way that using light to harden freshly painted nails comes with a cost.

“I got this black vertical line on my fingernail and I never really noticed it because I had acrylics. The doctor said I most likely got it from getting my nails done from the nail salon—from getting acrylics from the light.” —Karolina Jasko

Jasko was diagnosed with melanoma two years ago at only 18—the most dangerous (and most deadly) form of skin cancer. According to her doctor, the likely culprit was her nail salon visits. “I got this black vertical line on my fingernail and I never really noticed it because I had acrylics. The doctor said I most likely got it from getting my nails done from the nail salon,” she says.

Though she might have been at a higher risk due to a previous family history of melanoma, Carolyn Jacob, MD, director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, says everyone should be careful when getting gel manicures. It might not feel as naughty as lying in a tanning bed, but it’s really all the same. “Whether indoor tanning, UV lamp, outdoor tanning, all of those can cause aging of the skin and potential for skin cancers,” she says.

With this news, you’re probably wondering: Are gel manis officially off the table? Not totally. According to Dr. Jacob, the key is simply upping the protection during your visits by using sunscreen with a “physical blocker like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to cover all of your skin,” as well as protective gloves. Since not all salons will provide you with these options, bring them yourself. You can snag some online that have UPF 50+.

But that being said, you *can* use this as an excuse to skip the gels altogether. After all, naked nails are in, so why not take full advantage?

Here’s what to keep in your carry-on for a chip-free manicure during your next trip. Or, find out how to save your mani from split cuticles and dry hands.

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