UV lamps - dispelling the myth!

UV lamps under the microscope...........................Experts refute claims that UV nail lamps are unsafe 
for skin to give gel nail professionals peace of mind
                                                                                                                                               By Doug Schoon

Recent reports incorrectly claimed that UV nail lamps are a source of “high-dose UV-A” and also inaccurately compared UV tanning beds with UV nail lamps by overestimating the exposure of client skin to UV light emitted from UV nail lamps.

I worked with two other leading industry scientists and others in the Nail Manufacturers Council (NMC) to review these claims and verify the facts. Using an independent laboratory to test leading UV nail lamps we measured how much UV-A and UV-B is emitted and then compared that to natural sunlight. We tested popular UV nail lamps designed to utilise four 9-watt UV bulbs, as well as lamps with two 9-watt UV bulbs, so the results would be applicable to the majority of salons. The UV nail lamps selected for testing are likely representative of more than 90% of the UV nail lamps used in salons.

An independent scientific laboratory, not in the business of manufacturing or selling UV nail lamps, was used. Highly sensitive UV detectors were placed where client hands would normally reside while inside a UV nail lamp. To ensure a proper comparison, the same test equipment to measure the UV-A and UV-B light found in natural sunlight was used.

We have determined that the original dermatologists report was flawed in several ways, e.g. authors incorrectly conclude that putting a hand into a tanning bed with 12 100-watt UV bulbs is the same as putting that hand into a UV nail lamp with four 9-watt bulbs. This is incorrect because: 1) tanning bed users typically use these devices more often and for much longer periods than seen with nail salon services, 2) the authors mistakenly assumed that UV bulb ‘wattage’ is a measure of UV exposure to the skin, when wattage is actually a measure of energy usage, 3) the authors erred significantly by relying solely on UV bulb wattage to estimate the actual amount of UV exposure to skin, and 4) they neglected to consider that UV light reflects many times inside the tanning bed and these internal reflections further increase UV exposure to skin. Therefore, their ‘estimates’ of UV exposure to skin are not scientifically valid.

Since each of the client’s hands are placed into the UV lamp for intervals of two minutes or less, for a total of six-10 minutes, our study assumed the highest level of exposure: 10 minutes per hand, twice a month. Here is what we concluded:
1. UV-B output for both UV nail lamps was less than what was found in natural sunlight. The bulbs used in UV nail lamps contain special internal filters, which remove almost all UV-B, so this result is not surprising. The test results show that the amount of UV-B to which client skin is exposed is equal to what they could expect from spending an extra 17 to 26 seconds in sunlight each day of the two weeks between nail salon appointments.
2. UV-A exposure is much lower than suggested by MacFarlane and Alonso.

Test results show that UV-A exposure for client skin is equivalent to spending an extra 1.5 to 2.7 minutes in sunlight each day between salon visits, depending on the type of UV nail lamp used. A nail lamp with two UV bulbs corresponds to 1.5 minutes and a nail lamp with four UV bulbs corresponds to about 2.7 minutes each day between salon visits. These are relatively low levels of UV light and these exposure levels are considered well within safe levels when they are used to perform UV artificial nail services in nail salons.

The dermatologists claim that two patients’ skin cancer was caused by UV nail lamps, but both of their patients live in Texas, a climate where significant incidental UV exposure from sunlight is inevitable even in the absence of deliberate recreational exposure. One patient had been exposed to a UV nail lamp only eight times during the same year, which is equivalent to spending 10 to 20 minutes eating her lunch outdoors in natural sunlight once per week and the authors admitted their patient had ‘moderate recreational UV exposure’. It seems unlikely, under the circumstances, they can reasonably conclude this case of non-melanoma skin cancer is caused by these eight exposures to a UV nail lamp.

A fair examination of the facts supports the conclusion that UV nail lamps are safe when used as directed and brief client exposures are as safe as brief exposures to natural sunlight. Client hands are likely to be exposed to more UV light while driving their cars than they will receive from UV gel nail services.