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VERIFY | Do LED manicure lamps still emit UV?

Experts say yes, but don't necessarily recommend against that gel manicure.

WASHINGTON — A good manicure can be a confidence-boosting, look-finishing, self-care ritual for many, which is why a new study pointing to the dangers of one type of manicure has been getting so much attention. But how worried should you really be?


Do LED lights in gel manicure lamps emit UV rays?


The Skin Cancer Foundation

Harvard Medical School

The Department of Energy



This is true.

Yes, LED lights can still emit some UV rays, though our sources don't consider the levels from nail dryers dangerous.


This study published just days ago in the scientific journal Nature, "DNA damage and somatic mutations in mammalian cells after irradiation with a nail polish dryer," has been getting a lot of attention. Researchers conclude the radiation emitted by UV-nail polish dryers can damage DNA and cause genetic mutations, and suggest that could mean a link to cancer, since UV radiation has long been linked to skin cancer.

But manicure enthusiasts have been clapping back at the basis of the study, pointing out nail salons typically use LED lamps to harden gel manicures.

We turned to the Skin Cancer Foundation, Harvard Medical School, the Department of Energy, and the FDA, which all say LED lights still emit some UV rays.

But how much? Far less, the Department of Energy writes online, than the amount produced by natural daylight.

And when it comes to gel manicures, The Skin Cancer Foundation says even the most intense manicure lamps present only a “moderate” risk, and the FDA considers the lamps “low risk” when used as directed by people without any other medical sensitivities to UV exposure.

It’s worth noting that the authors of the study making the rounds now say, other factors–like studying the effect on cells, as opposed to actual human hands--mean more research is needed, and it could be years before they’re able to issue a broad health recommendation for the public.

Still, if you’re concerned: Harvard Health recommends the same type of precautions you’ve heard before when it comes to UV exposure: wearing sunscreen on your hands, wearing fingerless gloves to minimize exposure, or avoiding the lamps and opting for a different style of manicure.

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