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UV Nail Lamps Are Safe, Say Industry Experts

by NLS Staff | November 1, 2010

Have you heard rumors that UV lamps are unsafe — that they may even cause cancer? Recently three industry chemists got together to test the claims made in a report by two Texas-based dermatologists that the lamps are a source of “high-dose UV-A.” The report also inaccurately compared UV tanning beds with UV nail lamps. These nail industry scientists — Doug Schoon (CND), Paul Bryson (OPI), and Jim McConnell (Light Elegance) — were surprised by the claims. To verify the facts, they tested the leading UV nail lamps to determine how much UV-A and UV-B they emit and then compared that to natural sunlight. They concluded that the dermatologists’ report, “Occurrence of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers on the Hands After UV Nail Light Exposure,” overestimated the exposure of client skin to UV light emitted from UV nail lamps and improperly characterized the effect of these lamps on the hand. In fact, they noted, clients’ hands are likely to be exposed to more UV light while driving their cars than they will receive from UV gel nail services.

The UV nail lamps selected for testing are likely representative of more than 90% of the UV nail lamps used in salons. Two different UV nail lamps were submitted to Lighting Science, a completely independent scientific testing laboratory. Highly sensitive UV detectors were placed where client hands would normally reside while inside a UV nail lamp. These detectors measured the amount of UV-A and UV-B light emitted from each lamp. To ensure a proper comparison, Lighting Science also used the same test equipment to measure the UV-A and UV-B light found in natural sunlight.

Testing by Lighting Sciences produced the following information:

1. UV-B output for both UV nail lamps was less than what was found in natural sunlight.

The bulbs used in UV nail lamps contain special internal filters that remove almost all UV-B, so this result is not surprising. The test results show that the amount of UV-B to which client skin is exposed is equal to what they could expect from spending an extra 17 to 26 seconds in sunlight each day of the two weeks between nail salon appointments.

2. UV-A exposure is much lower than suggested in the dermatologists’ report.

Test results show that UV-A exposure for client skin is equivalent to spending an extra 1.5 to 2.7 minutes in sunlight each day between salon visits, depending on the type of UV nail lamp used. A nail lamp with two UV bulbs corresponds to 1.5 minutes and a nail lamp with four UV bulbs corresponds to about 2.7 minutes each day between salon visits.

“Our testing shows that UV nail lamps emit relatively low levels of UV light and these exposure levels are considered well within safe levels when they are used to perform UV artificial nail services in nail salons,” write Schoon, Bryson, and McConnell. The report by the Texas dermatologists, they say, has a faulty conclusion because it is based on incorrect assumptions.

For those clients who still express anxiety, a nail technician can consider doing the following:

> Place a small piece of white cloth over the hands when placing them in the UV nail lamp.

> If a client insists on wearing sunscreen, she should still be asked to wash her hands before any salon service begins. In this case, the nail technician should take special care to ensure nail plates are properly cleansed and dehydrated in order to prevent service breakdown.

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