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What the Yuck: Do nail dryers cause cancer?
It's better to let your nails air dry, health writer Roshini Raj says.
September 16th, 2011
09:35 AM ET

What the Yuck: Do nail dryers cause cancer?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

What's up with those UV-light dryers at the nail salon? Could they make you wrinkle faster? Or even give you skin cancer?

Those UV-light dryers are like tiny tanning beds, so you're right to be concerned. While this danger hasn't been looked at in any large-scale studies, dermatologists report finding more skin cancer on the fingers (typically a very rare location) of patients who have frequent exposure to these nail-drying lights.

In fact, a recent report in Archives of Dermatology said that using them may be a risk factor for the development of skin cancer. Also, we know that UV light increases your risk of cancer (and wrinkles), and if you're going to the nail salon every two weeks (or weekly), that will add up to significant exposure.

My two cents? Use them sparingly, or, better yet, let your nails dry on their own. It may take a bit longer, but it's worth the effort to save your skin.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011


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soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Dr.Science

    Hardly ever get my nails done, especially on my hands where the polish chips as soon as I leave the salong, and I never even thought about the little nail dryers even though I am a cancer researcher....Well, I guess we really learn something new every day!

    September 16, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. sam

    I say nail salons cause cancer of the LUNGS,Smell all the NAPTHA,and all the other POISONS in the AIR.....ANd they blame it all on SMOKING,or passive smoke...What fools

    September 16, 2011 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • iamthefredman

      I hate nail polish. My 11 y/o daughter puts it on often. I make her open a window or go outside. I took her to a real nail and hair salon once because she had a coupon for kids. What a nasty smell. Those Koreans are all going to be dead from something in that air.

      September 16, 2011 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      It's not naphtha, it's methyl methacrylate. The UV light acts as a polymerization initiator, creating the hard shell. More UV means more initiation, but short chain polymer, which is likely less hard. I would go with a short, intense burst get some action going, then let it harden by itself.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      I agree, nail salons are supposed to have large exhaust fans in the ceilings to help remove some of those vapors I very rarely see any salon with any exhaust systems other than an open door in place at all.

      September 17, 2011 at 09:06 | Report abuse |
  3. Jason

    What about the UV teeth whitening places. They must use some pretty intense UV to get a bleaching effect in such a short period of time. Those should really be investigated as well. Imagine if they cause oral cancers, what a shame for the "Jersey Shore" types. Be careful with following Snookie's example Anderson Cooper!

    September 16, 2011 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jules

      UV tooth whitening at the dentist is not going to give you cancer. They cover your gums, lips and tongue with plastic before aiming the UV light at your teeth only.

      While it won't cause cancer (because your tissues are covered) it is rather useless. Studies have shown it's no better than regular peroxide whitening trays. The UV light simply dries the teeth out and dehydrates them making them look white, but this only lasts a couple days and then the teeth are back to a shade comparable to plain old peroxide whitening.

      September 18, 2011 at 10:01 | Report abuse |
  4. massivesleeper

    Here's a better suggestion: Don't waste your time or money to go to a salon for something as silly as nail paint.

    September 16, 2011 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wwicks

      I'm guessing you've never had a mani/pedi...it's much more than just having your nails painted.

      September 16, 2011 at 12:54 | Report abuse |
    • DyingForBeauty

      Agreed...spending tons of money to have people remove the natural protection your body has and slather you with chemicals is pretty stupid.

      September 16, 2011 at 15:29 | Report abuse |
    • Miranda

      Some awfully smart mouth, rude, and know-it-all comments from people who don't deserve explanations or who know what they are talking about. I go every 2 to 3 weeks. My guy does my nails and including drying time I'm out the door in 1 hour. It takes forever at home plus I can't do a fill because I haven't gone to school for it so I need to go in to a salon. It's an hour of being relaxed and being pampered for $15 + tip. If you are calling that spending tons of money or being rich then you need to get your heads screwed on straight. Someone said they were Koreans, maybe in your town, but 98 percent of them are Viet Namese in my town, earning a living and not making a whole lot of money doing it. That $15 is split with the shop owner usually 60-40. Calling someone who goes to a salon a lazy puke is rude. I don't call you a lazy puke if you go out to dinner or have it sent it and don't cook it at home. I work and get a paycheck and if I choose to spend an hour and a few bucks every few weeks to get nice looking nails it's because I earned the money to pay for it not because I'm rich. A lot of people posting here with a darn wide mean streak in their characters.

      .

      September 18, 2011 at 06:39 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Miranda, "iamthefredman" is an imbecile. Unless he cuts his own hair, he's nothing but a hypocrite for criticizing anyone who gets a manicure as being a "lazy puke".

      Ignore him. He's an ugly troll.

      September 18, 2011 at 09:35 | Report abuse |
    • Jules

      So you say no one should get pedicures? So because of my broken knee that healed badly and I can't bend much, how do you expect me to cut my own toenails? It's rather hard to do without a great deal of pain.

      What about pregnant women who can't reach their feet?

      What about my elderly mother with bad arthritis who lives alone and can't reach her toes very well?

      What about people who work on their feet all day and like the pedicure for the 10 minute foot massage that comes with it, after a long week standing in front of a classroom lecturing?

      I'd say there is a place in the market for this service. If you don't care for it, you don't have to partake in it. Best wishes.

      September 18, 2011 at 10:06 | Report abuse |
    • kdeq

      Oh hey another one of those hipsters. Let's all be "natural" and "organic" guys. Stop wasting your money on television for entertainment because books are much more educational! Don't spend your time on the internet to get your news because newspapers are much more informative and "natural"!
      Don't spend your money on chocolate or candy because you should be eating celery and carrots, it's much more organic. And don't buy it from a supermarket chain. You need to bike downtown into Lary's Natural and Organic Market to go get home-grown vegetables!
      Don't forget, you don't need color printing, black ink is OK. So don't spend your money on color printers.
      Also, it's much healthier to use a ball-mouse. Laser mouses are unnecessary and it probably causes cancer. I think it'd also be more beneficial if people just bought used socks so we can save the environment. Don't spend things in novelty items either, it's a waste of money. Maybe everyone should just use the same white clothing, because then it's less fabric dye that's being used and hurting the environment. Everyone should just grow your own food too.

      September 18, 2011 at 22:44 | Report abuse |
  5. Brenda

    OMG! What doesn't cause cancer these days????

    September 16, 2011 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      Vegetables (organic that is) and exercise

      September 16, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse |
    • Heh

      There's no proven benefit for eating organic vegetables. Anyway, organic is all well and good for the people who can afford it, but it can't produce nearly as much as large-scale commercial farming with conventional herbicides & pesticides. About the only people benefiting from organic produce are the people selling it.

      September 19, 2011 at 08:37 | Report abuse |
  6. TraciL

    Some of the nail products are UV light cured and won't ever harden unless they are exposed to it.

    September 16, 2011 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. joe

    Nail polish and acetone fumes are probably just as bad. And I read that eating chemically cured hot dogs are almost as bad for you as smoking cigarettes, and coffee is good for fighting certain cancers but can cause colon cancer! Go figure.

    September 16, 2011 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • J.C.

      "I read that eating chemically cured hot dogs are almost as bad for you as smoking cigarettes"

      Where did you read this?

      September 16, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Yeah, wrong about the hot dogs, and wrong about the coffee.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:55 | Report abuse |
    • emmee

      Aceton is safe. It can irriitate and dry out the skin, but that is about the only bad thing it causes. It is actually produced in the body. Lots of studies have been done, and hardly any harmful effects have been observed as long as you don't ingest large amounts of the stuff. And most widely produced nail polishes have eliminated the majority of harmful chemicals from their formula so that they are very safe to use now. Even pregnant women can paint their nails without fear.

      September 17, 2011 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
  8. wave

    I am completely convinced that CNN(just a notch above Fox and MSNBC) has gone rock bottom at this point, first with the dental x-ray article above and now this. CNN is just one big fright fest! Welcome to the media of the 21st century...all shock and no substance.

    September 16, 2011 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. erich2112x

    Nonsense.

    September 16, 2011 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. KrisPy

    I've noticed that since I began getting gel nails and polish applied to my nails - that require drying under a UV light - I have developed more brown "sun" spots on the top of my hands. Would applying a sun screen to the tops of my hands and fingers prior to going under the UV light help prevent these spots and lessen the odds of developing skin cancer?

    September 16, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kathy

      Use sunblock and you should be fine...

      September 16, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
    • Michlele

      I don't know if sunblock would work because they wash your hands as part of the prep.

      September 17, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse |
    • Jules

      Instead of plain lotion you can provide the nail technician with sunblock lotion to apply, if you like.

      Then she will wipe the sunblock off your nails with a cotton ball soaked in acetone to remove it before painting your nails, just as she would wipe off the regular lotion in your normal routine.

      Sunspots are frequent on the hands, face, neck and chest as they get the most sun exposure over your lifetime. If you are concerned about their appearance there are also laser treatments to remove them, however they are expensive. Daily lotion with SPF will help prevent more from happening.

      September 18, 2011 at 10:12 | Report abuse |
  11. Julie

    Why not use a picture of the actual damage causing dryer and not scare people with a fan?

    September 16, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jenna

      Seriously. So much for journalism.

      September 16, 2011 at 17:37 | Report abuse |
    • Slim

      Please try to pay attention. The caption on that photo states, "It's better to let your nails air dry, health writer Roshini Raj says." Air drying would, of course, be more efficient with a device such as a small fan as depicted in the photo. That said, a picture of the subject matter instead would have been better and, agreed, CNN content is quite crappy from a jounalistic perspective.

      September 18, 2011 at 10:23 | Report abuse |
  12. Marianne

    OMG you’re going to die of something anyways might as well have great looking nails!!! Everything gives you cancer these days!!! next thing they are going to say is dont cross the street you might get hit by a car....

    September 16, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rigel54

      Yeah, life is the leading cause of death.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:56 | Report abuse |
    • Passion_for_science

      Yes, very true! Nobody should stop living. But if there are things that can be avoided, we should avoid them. It's a no brainer to smoke cigarette and worry out other things that cause cancer. You will die of lung cancer earlier than anything else will hit you! Plus you will cause cancer to all of the passive smokers living with you, your spouse/kids/parents etc. But then if you can't stop it, just decrease the exposure/frequency.

      September 18, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse |
  13. fernace

    Yep, everything causes cancer! It started with the hot-dogs & leisure suits of the 70s & has grown from there! I think it's only logical that a UV ray will be troublesome, no matter how small the exposure! After all, this is why we slather on UV protection every day, hello! Why not use those cute little hand held fans instead & forgo products that require UV to harden! That's my solution, anyway!!

    September 16, 2011 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rigel54

      The UV initiates the polymerization of the methyl methacrylate nail coating. Fans won't do it, they just evaporate the monomer.

      September 16, 2011 at 21:58 | Report abuse |
  14. nanobelle

    Forewarned is forearmed. In the past, people used to get their feet x-rayed at their local shoe store to be sure they had shoes that fit perfectly. Hotels in Nevada used to sell seats to view Atom bomb explosions in the desert. The government used to allow antibiotics in common foods. DDT was sprayed over forests and schools to keep the insect populations down. People voluntarily partook of all these hazards because no one had yet determined that to do so was imminently fatal. If someone uses their education to provide protection to you and your family, don't be a fool, listen.

    September 16, 2011 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • marie

      I am 43, have some gray hair, but refuse to color it. 20 years ago I was told that my hair was "too bland", but I liked the color anyway. Now, I am not ashamed of my age – I don't want my daughter's classmates turn their heads when I walk by in the mall, go ahead, we'll see what you look like at my age! My nails are a disaster. They are also the least of my problem. I take care of my mother-in-law (who used to be very nice just a few years ago before her heart surgery, and now her brain is failing), try to understand my kids' "teen" blues and their friends' parents' desperate attempts to "be ahead of everyone". Anyway... Years from now I will be expected to participate in some sort of fund raiser to improve awareness of cancer caused by ... whatever... Guess what? I won't be donating. It is obvious even to my 13-year old son that unneccessary exposure to chemicals will cause health problems. So, here is my verdict: pour chemicals on your head and nails and be gorgeous, or try to make peace with your look ( you may discover that IT IS GORGEOUS) and live your way. You see, nails need to be clean and relatively short for everyday tasks. Fancy stuff is needed only for special occasions, and you do understand it by the time you reach 40. For those of you who are not there yet – try to avoid judging. Believe me, you are not Forever 21. I am relatively fit and relatively healthy, and I tell my kids that they should limit their exposure to chemicals – medications or vapors of any sort. Please, don't understand it wrong. I know a lot of people whose lives depend on serious medications. They are also the ones who couldn't care less about the way their nails look,

      September 18, 2011 at 02:59 | Report abuse |
  15. Keith Carothers

    I think the government should investigate this as it applies to so many people across the world.
    Lets say we spend another 535 million (like Solyndra) on this study (and provide 4 jobs) to people who don't have a clue and call it good.

    September 16, 2011 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. MashaSobaka

    Oh darn. All those manicures and pedicures that I wasn't getting because I don't waste money on silly things...looks like I'll have to go on not getting them. Bummer.

    September 17, 2011 at 00:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Christianna

    Your smart-phone causes cancer. Right with you. Foul language causes cancers, too – the #1 cause. Scientists don't tell you this because you'll at once decry freedom of speeches stupidly and bully them.

    September 17, 2011 at 06:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dan

      Smartphones and foul language don't cause cancer, what are you on about?

      Next thing that'll be said here is electrical wires in the walls will cause cancer...

      September 18, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
  18. judy

    OMG!! I've put all my fans out on the curb for the trash.

    September 17, 2011 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Passion_for_science

      hope they are not the regular ones! (only the UV exposure is the troublemaker)

      September 18, 2011 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Satire is the cause of the whooshing sound above your head.

      September 18, 2011 at 16:18 | Report abuse |
  19. Braveshopper

    Just a note to those who would disparage going to a nail salon: People's toe-nails in particular have all manner of crud beneath and around them until they are cleaned under and around. It's as important to keep these areas on your body cleaned as anywhere else. Only someone with a strong back and expertise could tend to their own toes as proficiently as someone trained to do so. It's even more important for diabetics and those who might tend to have circulation problems. It's well worth the money spent and having it done professionally is the only way to go.

    September 17, 2011 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Bills Cat

    Yep, definitely been proven that something may possibly lead to something else - as long as a couple folks with PhDs are willing to give an opinion it becomes almost a fact. "Please, ma'am, just stick to opinions and remote possibilities, no facts! We're the media, we're not into the all that."

    Yeah, swell, we'll put that right along with vitamin E prevents cancer, tomato extract prevents prostate cancer and wheat germ prevents colon cancer. All of which are caused by something else we have to watch out for.

    September 17, 2011 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nash

      Posted on Jason, I feel your pain sometimes I feel weird letntig Cate play with my Star Wars toys or Batman figures, but then I think, Is it because they're boy' toys? and then I let her go to town.We have friends with a two-year-old son, and in their family, the dad does all the cooking, so they got their son a kitchen so he could be like daddy. I thought that was very cool.

      December 18, 2012 at 13:18 | Report abuse |
  21. Shar

    Timely article as I was just wondering about the shellac/UV health issue the other day... I like the idea of applying sunblock! Shellac manicures for me last up to 4 weeks (french tip so I can touchup if necessary) vs. using regular nail polish which lasts, if I am lucky, 2-3 days. Someone should invent a UV-proof glove (finger tips open of course)!

    September 17, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    @Iamthefredman: They sell hair clippers and scissors at CVS, too, moron. Do you cut your own hair?

    September 17, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. chuchingirl

    always thought about it, always air dry my nails......it's stupid to get cancer like that

    September 17, 2011 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. r

    Interesting. Good thing I don't do the nails thing. However, my HAIR dryer is making me deaf.

    September 17, 2011 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Leslielittle

    The picture in the article is NOT the kind of nail dryer they're referring to! They talk of the ultra-violet dryers...which are becoming popular for the "gel manicures"...the fan in the picture is just a fan...that wouldn't cause cancer. They should put an accurate picture in the article of the types of dryers they are talking about!

    September 17, 2011 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. JT

    Does anyone realize that almost everything made has at one point been linked to cancer?

    September 18, 2011 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. oh please

    get real jobs and stop trying to wh0re yourselves out to men who have money

    September 18, 2011 at 07:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What in the world are you blathering about? You think anyone who gets a manicure is "wh0ring herself out to men"? What a freak you must be. This forum is the perfect place for you.

      September 18, 2011 at 09:31 | Report abuse |
  28. boychickle

    I just heard that orgasms cause cancer in females!

    September 18, 2011 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. M

    walmart has one in their store up by the check out. I am sure the toxins of that is circulating in the air while we shop!!! They should be banned from being in there. I hate the smell.

    September 18, 2011 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Blackbeered

    Everything causes cancer.

    Move on.

    September 18, 2011 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Rhonda

    I don't know about anyone else's neighborhoods, but all of the nail saloons in my area reek of the chemicals used in acrylic nails. When I walk in the door I can't breathe because of the toxic chemicals, and most of the time I sit there for at least an hour. I am 61, and I have finally stopped going and have started doing my own nails. No, not as pretty, but I know my lungs are healthier. How many women who are non-smokers who die of lung cancer got manicures and pedicures on a regular basis? Just wondering....

    September 18, 2011 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Kevin Kunkel

    YES, they can give you cancer. So can red meat, alcohol, cigarettes, car exhaust, hair dyes, and millions of other things. Ever single thing you encounter in your life contains an inherent risk of some negative impact on your life. GET USED TO IT!!!!!! If you are really that worried about your health seal yourself up in a germ free hepabubble and quit bothering everyone else.

    September 19, 2011 at 00:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Just Me

    I do my own nails mani/pedi at home. The end result is also beautiful,perfect. I learned from Brazilian professionals, ones of the best in the world. To dry your nails fast just apply little drops of mineral oil, or Johnson baby oil on your freshly painted nails and toesies. The drying time is reduced to half. Putting your toes/ fingers under cold water also helps. Neithe of these will give you cancer.

    September 19, 2011 at 00:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. engfant

    Another chicken little story put out there to scare the people and nothing more. No evidence other than "we all know UV bla bla bla" which is about as accurate as a wive's tale that starts with 'back in my day'.

    No numbers, just nonsense with guesses and followed up by the "risks of finger rinkles".

    Finger wrinkles...what other country even thinks of something so pathetic?

    September 19, 2011 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Mary

    I don't think getting your toe or finger nails done is silly or a waste of time and money. My money and my time. But glad to know about another possible problem that may affect my health. I'm sure the nail industry will think of a way to begin protecting my hands like they did for the dental industry and teeth whitening. I also have had a few worries about the chemical smell and how that affects the nail techs. To the person that categorized all nail techs as Koreans, there was no need to specify any particular group of people. Using nail techs or just the word employees would of been just fine. Point out someone's racve or color in describing someone during any conversation is in my opinion is just a small version of closeted racisim. We can all get the point if you describe a person by clothes they are wearing,an action that they may have just done, hair color, anytrhing besides color or race. Say something like, "See that girl over there? The one in the yellow shirt and jeans?" Rather than, "See that white girl over there?" Taking baby steps just leads to walking and talking like an adult! I'm just the girl over there in the red shirt and jeans, waiting to get my nails done. Enjoy your day! •Mary•

    September 19, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Jenny joyce

    It's not absolute, but the convenience and function of nails dryer
    is obvious.

    November 21, 2011 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Danni

    Nail polishing as part of a home manicure can consist of a base coat, two layers of nail polish and a top coat. Each layer of product has to dry before you can apply the next. This can be time-consuming - potentially confused for someone who is pressed for time. If you've applied thick layers, your drying time will be even longer. To avoid spending a lot of time immobilized while your nails dry, a good nail dryer will assist you dry your nails thoroughly but quickly. Nearbyexpress LED new UV-light nail dryers work well on natural nail, acrylic or other artificial nails as long as your manicurist slicks on a UV-safe top coat first.

    December 19, 2011 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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  39. Salawaqa

    Jallge on September 23, 2011 This looks pretty good, but i'm couesnfd about what product keys are being used. if i were to install using this image, it wouldn't activate using the key on my COA?

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.