UV-Nail Dryer Dangers: Mini-Tanning Beds?

Risky nail dryers? Risky nail dryers? Despite all the news about "Tanning Mom" and the dangers of tanning beds, little attention has been paid to another common risk that uses the same type of ultraviolet (UV) light that is associated with skin cancer: nail salon dryers. When you stick your feet or hands under the purple-blue glow of a nail dryer, your body is being subjected to radiation that may have health consequences.

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"Nail dryers use UVA light," Dr. D'Anne Kleinsmith, spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) tells Shine. "It doesn't cause much burning but penetrates the skin more than UVB. UVA radiation is more associated with damage to deeper levels of the skin, wrinkling, and cancer. She adds, "Without the burning, we are more are apt overdose on UVA."

Nail drying machines are unregulated so it is difficult to determine how much UVA they emit. Older machines may emit higher levels. While more studies needs to be done, research published in 2009 indicates a connection between UV nail dryers and skin cancer. Some dermatologists are reporting seeing skin problems around the nail beds of patients with little sun damage on other parts of their bodies. While individual trips to the salon might not be a problem, over time, the exposure adds up.

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Zoe Draelos, MD, also a spokesperson for the AAD, highlights another health issue: UV light can potentially harm eyesight. "The UV that nail dryers put out is damaging to the eyes," Draelos tells Shine. "It depletes lutein [an antioxidant that absorbs blue light] in the macula, which is the central area of vision on the back of the retina. It is thought that this UV light may prematurely cause macular degeneration." She adds this is a risk that both nail artists and salon goers need to be aware of.

The bottom line for consumers is that when you have your nails done at a salon, it is safest to turn off the light and just use the blower to speed up drying. If you can't resist an occasional shellac or gel manicure, slather your hands or feet with a broad-spectrum sunscreen. "I was going to try shellac nails once before going on vacation," says Kleinsmith. "But when I realized how long I had to sit under UV light, I decided it wasn't worth it."

Also on Shine:

Choosing the Best Sunscreen-and Avoiding the Worst

Tanning Bed Case Spotlights Tanning Bed Dangers for Minors

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