top of page

Scientific Studies Reveal: Applying Sunscreen to Hands Pre-Nail Salon Visits Lowers Skin Cancer Risk

Shellac Speed Dryers May Increase Skin Cancer Risk!

Nail salon
Photo created by Author using Wonder Digital Arts

Skin cancer is, if not "the" most common type of cancer and commonly occurs in the sun-exposed areas of the body. As most people know, those with fair skin and who spend lots of time outdoors are the most prone to this type of cancer.

Avoiding sun exposure which contains UVA (damaging Ultraviolet A radiation), has been the cornerstone of skin cancer prevention for a long time. Sun exposure is the most common cause of human skin cancer. However, long-term sun exposure is not the only reason people get skin cancer.

Factors like arsenic ingestion and other forms of radiation do, indeed, cause skin cancers. And the type of skin cancer one can acquire due to damaging external insult is diverse. Nonetheless, the top three are Small Cell Carcinoma (80%), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (about 16%), and Melanoma. (about 4%)

Here we must recognize that sunlight contains three types of U.V. radiation, categorized by their wavelength. Those include UVA, UVB, and UVC.

UVA can cause sunburn, DNA damage in the skin cells, and skin cancer. UVB also causes skin damage and skin cancer. Most UVB fails to reach human skin as Ozone stops it from reaching the earth's surface. Only about 15% of UVB passes through the Ozone. Then again, with ever-enlarging ozone defects due to air pollution, this number may be scrutinized. UVC, on the other hand, is the most dangerous type of U.V.; fortunately, Ozone in the atmosphere absorbs all UVC and does not reach the earth's surface.

Despite recognizing other agents of skin cancer, healthcare seems to lag slightly in educating the public on other potential causes. One such source is the commonly used devices like nail polish drying hand booths.

According to Statistica, 20.05 million Americans received manicures at least 4X in 2020. Most of those cases are associated with applying Shellac nail polish.

UV Light
Photo created by Author using Wonder Digital Arts

Shellac is a natural resin typically secreted by the female lac bug on trees in the woodlands of India and Thailand. The UVA ray enhances the drying of this substance after its application.

Ultraviolet (U.V.) nail fixing or drying lamps are typically table-top units. And as mentioned, they facilitate drying or "curing" acrylic and gel nail polishes.

UVA-emitting speed drying lamps used in nail salons may be used for other nail polishes. They emit large doses of radiation known to cause cancer.

UVA potentially contributes to skin cancer by inducing cell death and mutations in human skin cells.

Consumers must remember that retailers may promote speed nail lamps under LED instead of U.V. lamps. However, regardless, the emitted radiation still contains UVA. Despite the associated risk, experts say consumers should not lose sleep because nail polish dryer lamps may increase Skin Cancer Risk!

Based on a report published by Mayo Clinic and JAMA Dermatology, the UVA exposure associated with a nail dryer or Shellac application process is not significantly high enough to increase skin cancer risk if done every two weeks or less. Nevertheless, some medications may increase skin sensitivity to U.V. light. Therefore, they must be considered before visiting a nail salon.

Like preventative measures against sun exposure, those planning to get nail treatment can use Sun blocks of SPF 15 and over. One can reduce the risk of Skin cancer and damage by applying Sunscreen to the hands at least two hours before visiting a nail salon. Furthermore, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates nail polish dryers and other radiation-emitting instruments.


  1. U.S.: frequency of manicures 2011–2020 | Statista [WWW Document], n.d.. Statista. URL (accessed 1.26.23).

  2. Could U.V. Light From Nail Polish Dryers Cause Cancer? [WWW Document], 2023. . U.S. News & World Report. URL // (accessed 1.26.23).

  3. Do the U.V. lights used in nail salons for Shellac and other nail polishes cause skin cancer? [WWW Document], n.d. Do the U.V. lights used in nail salons for Shellac and other nail polishes cause skin cancer? | Cancer Council. URL (accessed 1.26.23).

  4. U.V. Index [WWW Document], n.d. U.V. Index | Cancer Council. URL (accessed 1.26.23).

  5. Skin cancer | Causes, Symptoms & Treatments [WWW Document], n.d. Skin cancer | Causes, Symptoms & Treatments | Cancer Council. URL (accessed 1.26.23).

  6. Safety of LED nail lamps — Harvard Health [WWW Document], 2018. Harvard Health. URL (accessed 1.26.23).

  7. Bever, L., 2023. U.V. dryers for gel nails can harm DNA, study says. Should I use them? [WWW Document]. Washington Post. URL (accessed 1.26.23).

  8. Zhivagui, M., Hoda, A., Valenzuela, N., Yeh, Y.-Y., Dai, J., He, Y., Nandi, S.P., Otlu, B., Houten, B.V., Alexandrov, L.B., 2023. DNA damage and somatic mutations in mammalian cells after irradiation with a nail polish dryer — Nature Communications [WWW Document]. Nature. URL (accessed 1.26.23).

  9. LED and U.V. lamps: what's the difference? [WWW Document], 2021. Manucurist US. URL (accessed 1.26.23).

  10. Foundation, S.C., 2023. Ask the Expert: Are the U.V. Lamps in the Dryers at the Nail Salon Safe to Use? [WWW Document]. The Skin Cancer Foundation. URL (accessed 1.26.23).

  11. How to Safely Use Nail Care Products [WWW Document], 2017. How to Safely Use Nail Care Products | FDA. URL (accessed 1.26.23).


bottom of page