As gel manicures prompt UV light concerns, here's how you can protect yourself

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Gel manicures have risen in popularity because they dry fast and last long. However, concerns have surfaced regarding the UV light used to cure the polish, prompting some nail salons to offer UV protection.

“A lot of customers really worry about their skin and getting wrinkles, so we offer the collagen glove for that,” said Zenni Pham, owner of New Age Nail Studio, 832 N. State St. in downtown Chicago.

The studio offers the gloves as a $5 add-on to clients getting gel manicures. Pham said some seem surprised by the option.

“We have some customers that are surprised, because like it's kind of new for everyone. And some customers, they use it already and they love it,” Pham said.

The gloves contain macadamia oil and other moisturizers on the inside, and offer UV protection against the light that cures gel polish.

“We don't actually know the long-term risk for skin cancer in people who are exposed to these UV nail lamps,” said Dr. Vidya Shivakumar, a dermatologist with Rush University Medical Center.

In lab studies, Shivakumar said cells exposed to UV light showed damage similar to skin cancer.

“We still need more information, more data,” Shivakumar said. “But because we do know that UVA rays from the sun and tanning beds can link to skin cancer, that's why there is that concern, absolutely.”

Shivakumar recommended gel manicures in moderation to her patients, telling them to avoid back to back gel manicures. And when they do get gel manicures, she recommended they use UV protection.

“Wear broad spectrum sunscreen,” Shivakumar said. “You can actually get UV protective gloves. They have kind of like an opening at the fingertip and you can get these things less than $10 online, so you could wear that to your appointment.”

The option is one not everyone is aware of.

“It is definitely something to think about and to prepare for, because before, it just was not on my radar,” said Amy Milnern, who was visiting Chicago from Mississippi and getting a gel manicure at New Age Nail Studio.

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