Should You Be Wearing SPF When Getting Gel Manicures?

At the end of your gel manicure, you'll be familiar with having to put your hands under a UV lamp to "cure" your nails. This process essentially sets the polish, as the gel contains chemicals called photoinitiators, which requires a direct dose of UV wavelengths to be hardened in a process called "photoreaction," according to Salons Direct.


However, as this process involves direct exposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) light, according to Health, that is the same light with risks of skin damage and even cancer. "Both tanning beds and gel manicures include high levels of UVA radiation, which plays an important role in developing skin cancer," dermatologist Loren G. Franco told Byrdie. However, unlike tanning beds, manicure lamps "emit less UVA radiation, so they present a much lower risk of developing skin cancer."

However, a study conducted by the Australasian College of Dermatologists suggests that even though the amount of time your hands are exposed to this light is substantially shorter than in a tanning bed, the exposure "is the equivalent to the recommended limit of UV rays for an entire day," according to Endeavor.


So, should you be wearing SPF when getting gel manicures to protect your skin?

SPF can prevent skin damage and cancer during a gel manicure

As dermatologist Loren G. Franco tells Byrdie, it's much better to "play it safe and protect the skin" with an SPF lotion prior to your gel manicure appointment. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) recommends that you should apply a "broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher" to prevent not only skin cancer, but premature aging. This should be applied not only to your hands when having a manicure, but your feet during a gel pedicure as well, as Endeavor notes.


However, sunscreen isn't always a foolproof option. According to Franco, SPF "still doesn't protect against skin cancers from developing under the nail itself." However, dermatologist Dr. Shari Marchbein suggested to Makeup that you should put SPF on both your hands and cuticles before treatment to fully protect yourself from the UV rays prior to the curing process.

The AADA also notes that SPF isn't your only protection option. You can also put on "dark, opaque gloves" with the fingertips exposed before your nail polish is applied. These gloves are designed to be UVA protected, and can provide an extra layer of protection (via Allure).