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Yikes – Even Our Gel Manicures Aren’t Safe!?!

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We All Love Our Nails – So What’s The Big Deal?

There’s a sweet-not-so-sweet habit we might need to encourage you to break – or at least not make a habit of anymore: gel manicures. The gel nail polish isn’t the issue. Rather, the issue is with gel nail dryers that use concentrated emissions of UV light.

UV Gel Polish Dryers Can Be More Damaging Than the Sun.

If you developed skin cancer on your fingers or toes, including under nail beds, please contact us right away. The manufacturers of the UV gel polish dryers may be at fault here. And don’t worry – your sweet manicurist is not at fault. We all love our manicurists!

“If you look at the way these devices are presented, they are marketed as safe, with nothing to be concerned about… but no one has actually studied these devices and how they affect human cells at the molecular and cellular levels until now.”1

Ludmil Alexandrov, co-author of UC San Diego’s first-of-its-kind study confirming the link to skin cancer


Frequency of High-Dose UV Exposure Used in Gel Manicures Increases Cancer Risk.

Research on the subject is exploding because cases of related skin damage from gel manicures (UV lightboxes) increase with frequency.

Scientists at the University of California San Diego suggested in their groundbreaking 2023 study the link between routine exposure to high-dose artificial UV radiation from gel nail dryers and the increased risk of cell mutation, which leads to skin cancer of the hands, feet, and nails.2

Add on the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) 2023 warning that “UV is epidemiologically and molecularly linked to the three most common types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.”3

Of particular interest are squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma diagnosed in the fingers and toes, including under nail beds. Genetic history can be a contributing factor, but here we’re citing cases where there was no family history of cancer.

How Did Researchers Determine the Cancer Link?

The New York Times also covered the UCSD study, describing the nature of experiments that exposed healthy mouse and human skin cells to high-dose intervals of UV artificial radiation. They used a UV nail drying device similar to preferred professional salon versions. After one 20-minute session, 20%-30% of cells died. After 3 consecutive 20-minute sessions, 65%-70% of cells died. Those that didn’t die began to malfunction.

Cell death is a natural process, but this is different. “It can be [bad] if too many cells die or if the wrong cells die,” said Dr. Melissa Owens, co-author of the UCSD study. The kind of chronic cell damage associated with gel polish dryers can lead to mutation.


What Can Happen and How to Minimize Risk.

In April 2020, Karolina Jasko was a 21-year-old Illinois beauty queen (Miss Illinois 2018) having her gel nails removed for the umpteenth time when she noticed a thin black line on her thumb. She’d had dozens of gel manicures throughout high school.

A week later, the thumb had become swollen and painful. Her doctor gave her a dumbfounding diagnosis – nail melanoma. She underwent surgery to remove her thumbnail and replace it with skin grafted from her groin, which left a permanent scar,3according to CBS News.

Every study, in fact, recommends that fans of gel manicures take precautions.


Here’s what to do:


Stop gel manicures and pedicures altogether or limit them to special occasions. The UV exposure (and thus cancer risk) increases with frequency, so the fewer times you are under the dryer, the safer you will be.

If you just can’t give up your gel nails, then wear gloves and socks that cover as much of your fingers and toes as possible. (Of course this does not protect your nail beds, but at least it protects your fingers.)

If you can't wear gloves and socks, then wear broad spectrum sunscreen (preferably #50) while under the dryers.

Watch for changes in skin under the nails - if you see a black line, head to a dermatologist asap. This could be melanoma, which is very dangerous. Also watch for other changes in the skin on your hands and fingers.

If you are not already doing a yearly skin check with a dermatologist, it’s time to start! Catching cancer early is the key to prevention.

Who We Are and Why It Matters.

A Case for Women is your safe place to tell your story and connect with legal help. We were founded 8 years ago by a mother-daughter team who had “had enough” of the patriarchy and how it hurts women in so many ways. We educate people about the accessibility of the civil court system after injuries that could have been prevented with appropriate oversight from manufacturers and corporate wrongdoers.

Since our beginning in 2016, we have helped more than 15,000 people join powerful lawsuits that have created systemic, positive change. Examples of change include the removal of Essure birth control from the U.S. market, the change from talc to corn starch in Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder, new safety protocols in Ubers and Lyfts, and many more.

A Case for Women also operates a non-profit, A Fund for Women, that donates to women in dire circumstances.



  1. Kashish Nizami,”UCSD Researchers find UV Nail Polish Dryers Damage DNA, Cause Mutations,” The Guardian, University of California San Diego, February 20, 2023

  2. Ibid

  3. Anna Słabicka-Jakubczyk, Miłosz Lewandowski, Paulina Pastuszak,, Wioletta Barańska-Rybak, Magdalena Górska-Ponikowska,“Influence of UV nail lamps radiation on human keratinocytes viability,” National Institutes of Health (NIH), December 18, 2023

  4. Melinda Wenner Moyer, “Are Gel Manicures Dangerous,” New York Times, February 7, 2023
    Staff,“Beauty Queen Blames Melanoma on Nail Gel Manicure,” CBS News, May 3, 2019

  5. Aria Bendix, “These dermatologists say they don’t get gel manicures as research hints UV nail dryers may damage DNA,” NBC News, January 23, 2023