Fact CheckHealth

TRUE! Studies show UV-nail polish dryers increase skin cancer risks

Claim: A viral post on Instagram by The Shaderoom posited that a study revealed links between UV nail polish dryers and cancer-causing mutations in cells.

Verdict: TRUE

A study by dermatologists showed that Ultraviolet, a light commonly emitted by UV-nail polish dryers, may increase the risk of skin cancer when used long-term.

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As more women explore different fashion options to appear beautiful, getting a ‘manicure or pedicure in line with the latest trends completes the look in most cases. However, some tools or equipment used by nail designers might pose a danger to their health.

Recently, The Shaderoom (@Shaderoom), on Instagram, posted that a study by researchers disclosed that UV nail polish dryers could be linked with skin cancer. The post has been viewed by over 300,000 Instagram users and has had over 30,000 comments since filing this report.

A screenshot of the original post.

The average woman gets a manicure or pedicure done at intervals of two weeks, depending on the work the individual is engaged in. These days more women opt for gel polish or acrylic nails because they are fancier and last longer. These nails require UV light to dry up properly, and more young women prefer this option.

According to a survey by Statista, 12 per cent of 18 to 29-year-olds apply nail polish multiple times a week, compared to just six per cent of those aged 60 and over. Around 27 per cent of 60-year-olds and above said they never use nail polish, implying that the younger demography uses nail polish more.

A screenshot of the data chart from Statista.

Seeing this tool is a part of many people’s beauty routines and the possible health consequences prompted us to verify this assertion shared by The Shaderoom and other users.


According to a new research article by a group of dermatologists, Ultraviolet A light is commonly emitted by UV-nail polish dryers suggesting that long-term use may increase the risk of developing skin cancer. However, they added that there is no experimental evaluation to reveal the effect of radiation emitted by UV-nail polish dryers on mammalian cells.

The Washington Post reports that researchers at the University of California at San Diego and the University of Pittsburgh exposed humans. Mice cell lines to UVA light from nail dryers and findings showed that after a single 20-minute exposure, 20 to 30 per cent of the cells died, and after three consecutive 20-minute exposures, 65 to 70 per cent of the cells died.

Furthermore, the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) affirmed that using nail drying lamps in manicure processes is low risk. However, they advised users to desist from using these lamps if they have concerns.

The researchers in the study cautioned that, although the results show the harmful effects are due to the frequent use of these devices on human cells, a long-term epidemiological study is required before stating conclusively that using these machines leads to an increased risk of skin cancers.

Dr Eno Kela, a medical practitioner, said exposure to UV light from the sun had been associated with an increased risk of skin cancer. 

He added that when they penetrate the skin, they can cause DNA damage which can make the cells get out of control, leading to skin burns, skin ageing, or, ultimately, skin cancers like melanoma. 

“This is why people talk about skin protection and discourage skin tanning,” he said.

He added that applying UV light on nails should be avoided.


Based on our findings, it is true that studies have revealed a link between UV nail polish dryers and skin cancer, but more research still needs to be done to solidify this assertion. 

The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2023 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with Summitpost News to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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