Industry expert responds to claims that nail lamps cause cancer

By Scratch Staff | 29 March 2018 | Expert Advice, Feature

Globally renowned scientist and nail expert, Doug Schoon, explores the safety concerns surrounding UV nail lamps…

The facts that I will outline below demonstrate that UV curing nail lamps are safe, despite attacks by the misinformed media, fear-mongers and TV celebrity doctors.

This controversy started in 2009 when two dermatologists from Texas erroneously claimed that skin cancers on the hands of two patients were caused by UV nail lamps. Oddly, one of the two patients cited was a woman who had only been to a salon eight times and, according to these dermatologists, had pre-existing ‘moderate recreational exposure’ to sunlight. Their incorrect conclusions have started a long and relentless negative attack on salons that continues to this day.

Finally, in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recognised that UV nail lamps as used in nail salons are safe. In July 2017, the FDA released this statement:

“…the FDA views nail curing lamps as low risk when used as directed by the label. For example, a 2013 published study indicated that, even for the worst-case lamp that was evaluated, 36 minutes of daily exposure to this lamp was below the occupational exposure limits for UV radiation. (Note that these limits only apply to normal, healthy people and not to people who may have a condition that makes them extra sensitive to UV radiation.) To date, the FDA has not received any reports of burns or skin cancer attributed to these lamps.

The 2013 study mentioned was undertaken by world-class photo-biologists, Drs. Dowdy and Sayre. They adhered to the international UV testing standards and demonstrated that UV nail lamps are unlike tanning beds.

“When UV nail lamps evaluated in this report are compared together with earlier sunlamp computations, we find that the UV nail lamps are vastly less hazardous,” they comment. “All of the various UV nail lamps submitted for evaluation were found to be significantly less hazardous than might have been anticipated based on the initial concerns raised.”

The duo noted that the natural nail plate blocks UV and protects the nail bed, providing natural UV resistance comparable to an SPF 40 sunscreen. They also found that the backside of the hand is four times more resistant to UV than the forehead or cheek, making the backside of the hand the most UV resistant part of the body.

Both fluorescent tube and LED-style UV nail lamps were studied, providing evidence to support the safety of all UV nail lamps. Dr. Sayre said, “This UV source probably belongs in the least risky of all categories. UV nail lamps are safer than natural sunlight or sunlamps.”

A second study by Markova and Weinstock of Massachusetts General Hospital and the Alpert Medical School at Brown University confirmed that ‘UV nail lamps do not appear to significantly increase lifetime risk’ and noted that doctors often use UV medical lamps as a therapeutic skin treatment. They revealed that when compared to such medical devices that have been in long use, ‘one would need over 250 years of weekly UV nail sessions to experience the same risk exposure.’

This support the statements by the Nail Manufacturers Council on Safety (NMC) of the Professional Beauty Association that concluded from their 2009 study that UV nail lamps are safe when used as directed.

Doug Schoon is an internationally known scientist, researcher, author and educator. He has studied natural and artificial nails, nail products and services for over 25 years. Doug holds 16 patents for developing the most innovative and successful nail products ever created and is considered a leading scientific expert for the professional nail industry.

This article was published in Scratch magazine in December 2017. Explore more articles from Doug at