Do You Need Sunscreen for Manicures?

UV lamp

Sunscreen is part of a healthy daily routine. It can reduce chances of skin cancer as well as of sunburn. But what about UV rays from the machines that cure a gel manicure? Do you need sunscreen on your hands before you settle down for a mani-pedi?

A recent study examined this question in the lab, looking at physical changes, not at the incidence of skin cancer among people who get manicures. “Taken together, our experimental results and the prior evidence strongly suggest that radiation emitted by UV-nail polish dryers may cause cancers of the hand and that UV-nail polish dryers, similar to tanning beds, may increase the risk of early-onset skin cancer,” the researchers concluded. 

They recommended further research to be certain. However, the study was inspired by reports of a rare cancer showing up on the fingers of beauty pageant contestants, who could be expected to have more frequent manicures than the average person. 

Is it UV light?

The first question is whether the nail drying machine you use is using UV lights or not. Whether at home or in a nail salon, UV lights are used to cure gel manicures. However, there are other kinds of nail dryers. 

Look and see whether blue or purple lights are shining on your nails. If so, it’s probably UV lights. If not, it might be just air.

UV light is damaging to human skin. Regular use can increase the risk of cancer in the future.


Protective gloves are the first choice solution. UV-protecting fingerless gloves limit the amount of UV radiation your hands receive. Even ordinary gloves with the fingertips removed can help.

High SPF sunscreen (at least 30) is another possible solution. Put plenty of sunscreen on your hands 15 minutes before your manicure. 

While the FDA considers these dryers safe, the new evidence suggests taking simple precautions to be on the safe side.