Technology & Science

Avoid UV nail dryers, MDs urge

The UV dryers that tens of thousands of Canadian women use for manicured fingernails can increase the risk of skin cancer, some doctors warn.

The UV dryers that tens of thousands of Canadian women use for manicured fingernails can increase the risk of skin cancer, some doctors warn.

Gel nails and nail lacquers or shellacs are increasingly popular but evidence points to concerns about UV dryers used to cure or dry the nail coatings, said Dr. Richard Langley, director of research at Dalhousie University's dermatology division in Halifax. 

"The major concerns we have about UV nail lights or any form of artificial radiation is that you are exposing yourself, often for cosmetic reasons, to a known carcinogen," said Langley.

The scientific evidence that UVA nail lights used in the dryers can cause cancer are both direct and indirect, Langley said.

He pointed to published case reports of young women with no family history of skin cancer and little evidence of sun damage who developed skin cancers on their fingers around their nails after regularly using UV nail dryers.

Lab investigations and clinical studies have also found UV can cause skin cancer, he noted.

Dryers vary

In their defence, the companies that make the devices say the dryers emit less radiation than a day spent under office lights.

Nail technician Donna Roach in Halifax said in the eight years she has used dryers, none of her clients have had a problem. But Roach welcomed the attention to the topic, saying some dryers emit more UV than others.

"It's making people think about where they’re getting their nails done, the type of products being used, " Roach said.

New York-based dermatologist Dr. Neal Schultz hosts a daily skincare video show on the web called DermTV.

"At this time, just say no when it comes to UV nail dryers," Schultz said in an online appeal.

Every couple of months for the last 10 years, Halifax resident Natasha Mohler has had her nails shellacked. As she filed her nails, Mohler said the coating can last up to 14 days without chipping.

For those undeterred by the cancer threat, doctors note that UV dryers also cause skin aging.