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Shellac: Could Your Manicure Cause Cancer?

November 16, 2012, 10:00 PM by Hailey Higgins

Shellac: Could Your Manicure Cause Cancer?

It's a routine beauty treatment with an ugly danger. The lights used to dry nails after Shellac treatments has been linked to an increased skin cancer risk.

However, those who love the look argue there isn't enough evidence to worry and the benefits outweigh the risk. 

All over the country, ladies are flocking to nail salons to get this long-lasting nail color experience.

Sheila Amrhein is a 22 year nail design veteran and says the hot new trend called "Shellac" is keeping her on her toes.

"The popularity is gaining and gaining and gaining just because people can go so much longer without polishing one day and having it chipped two days later," Amrhein said.

Shellac nail polish, a brand name registered by Creative Nail Design, is in high demand in salons because it lasts longer than traditional nail treatments, at least two weeks.

Chantel Quissell has been coming nearly every month for the last three years for the manicure.

"I don't have time to come in every week or two weeks so this lasts on me," Quissell said. "I can go four weeks easy and they don't chip; they don't do anything like that."

Another selling feature is the quick drying time. A small UV light is used to dry and harden the layered product, a series that takes no more than ten minutes under the lamps. 

"I can put on my mittens, not worry about fumbling for my keys or anything like that. It's completely dry," Quissell said.

But is this mani putting your health at risk? Some dermatologists think so, raising concerns about the UV lamps.

Research published three years ago looked at two middle-aged women with no family history of skin cancer, who worked indoors and yet developed non-melanoma skin cancer after repeated exposure to high-powered UV lights at a nail salon.

Yet despite the limited size of the study, the report raises alarms about the potential health risks posed by the drying lights.

"The problem obviously is the curing process which uses UV lights which is directly linked to cancer, without a doubt," Dermatologist Dr. Kelly Jerstad

Jerstad says she loves Shellac manicures and even her staff sports the shiny product in the office. But she warns of the dangers they can do to hands and fingers.

"UV light is linked not only to skin cancer but aging of the skin. And that is one of the places where women show their age," Jerstad said.

"I may not be as worried as I should be," Quissell said.

As for the dangers, Amrhein echoes what Creative Nail Design says on its website, speaking out against the cancer link.

"You are getting more ultra violet rays to your skin in your car driving home from work than you are in these UV lights," Amrhein said.

Amrhein argues that the biggest danger about the product is the improper removal by amateurs. CND requires customers to return to their nail professional for a proper removal of Shallac.

"It is made to be put on and removed by a professional because we know how to save the integrity of the natural nails by not scrubbing, filing, picking, that kind of thing on the nail," Amrhein said.

And while Jerstad doesn't discourage the use of Shellac, she does recommend taking steps to reduce UV exposure by applying sunscreen before heading to the salon or wear gloves with the tips removed.

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