Could Your Manicure Habit Give You Cancer?
One of my favorite indulgences as summer approaches is the mani-pedi, which can be had in my New York City neighborhood for a mere $24 if I pop in Monday through Wednesday. In the midst of all the which-pastel-for-my-fingers and which-neon-for-my-toes decision-making, what could darken this pampering experience? Well, a few things.
First, there’s a new report in JAMA Dermatology that says the drying lamps used in nail salons can increase our risk of skin cancer. It makes sense that the UVA light they emit is the same as that in tanning beds, but I never made the connection until reading this report. The risk isn’t super-high, and every drying lamp is different in terms of amount of UV exposure, but there is a risk with multiple manicure visits.
I don’t go weekly, so I should be OK, right? Wrong. Researchers estimate that for most of the lamps, even one drying session every three months could cause DNA damage to the skin. I am certainly hitting that number. Also, I usually press the drying button twice because it takes a while, and smudging a brand-new manicure is crazy frustrating.
“Start with an Internet search, but don’t rely on the name of the salon or what you read online,” she says. In other words, "Green & Clean Nails” could be just a playful rhyme, not an eco-friendly designation. “Call them up and ask questions.” For example, find out if they do gels or acrylics—both are bad signs. “Those always involve harsh chemicals that you don’t want to breathe in,” Padgett says.
“Skip the paraffin dip—it’s filled with petrochemicals,” she says. Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum, which are bad news for you and the earth.
Padgett also suggests toting your own nail polish, but my favorite part of the whole process is choosing colors from the rainbow wall. She says that’s OK as long as I know what to look for: “five-free nail care. Make sure the salon has polishes that are free of toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, and phthalates.” Brands that Padgett approves of are Zoya, Jenna Hipp, Sheswai, Priti, and Scotch.
As for those drying machines, avoid them to be on the safe side. You know what to do: Wave your hands in the air, blow on your nails, and don’t touch anything for 20 to 30 minutes. It’s doable and worth it.