Are UV Nail Lamps Safe?

The Professional Beauty Association (PBA), and its Nail Manufacturers Council (NMC), today reported the results of a recent study finding that UV lamps used for curing acrylic and gel nail care products are safe when used as directed (Schoon, Bryson, McConnell 2010).

This study contradicts recent Internet stories and media coverage suggesting such lamps may be unsafe. Further, the study also challenges a recent report that improperly compares nail lamps to full-body tanning beds, based on wattage, and suggests that UVA exposure levels from UV nail lamps may be unsafe. (D.F. MacFarlane and C.A. Alonso 2009).

To investigate these matters, the NMC recently engaged Lighting Sciences, Inc. to test the level of UVA and UVB light emitted by UV nail lamps. Lighting Sciences, a fully-equipped, independent scientific testing laboratory specializing in the development and testing of illumination devices, including those that emit UV light, was asked to use standard scientific protocols to test hand exposure from UV nail lamps and compare such exposure to natural sunlight exposure. The findings of Lighting Sciences, combined with assessments from the nail industry's leading scientists, clearly demonstrate that UV nail lamps are safe when used as directed and that the media reports and the suggestions in the MacFarlane-Alonso report to the contrary are misleading.

"The health and safety of the public and beauty practitioners is of the utmost concern for the PBA and NMC. By issuing this announcement, we hope the public will have more scientifically-based information and understand that UV nail lamps emit low levels of UV light and are safe when used as directed," states Steve Sleeper, executive director for the PBA.

Douglas Schoon of Schoon Scientific, one of the authors of the NMC report, said, "The MacFarlane-Alonso report was premised on the erroneous assumption that the concentration of light produced by UV nail lamps is similar to that of tanning beds. In reality, UV nail lamps emit much lower concentrations. The McFarlane-Alonso observations also did not take into consideration factors such as total time spent under each type of lamp, energy use versus UV exposure, and the multiple reflections of light within the tanning bed that adds to UV exposure."

To investigate the Internet and media stories and the MacFarlane-Alonso report, the NMC asked Lighting Sciences to test the UV output of two UV nail lamps, one with four 9-watt UV bulbs, and the other with two 9-watt UV bulbs. These two UV nail lamps were selected based on a common spectrum of UV exposure and popularity in nail salons across the country. UV detectors were placed where the customer would place her hands in the lamp. The detectors measured the UV-A and UV-B light emitted from each nail lamp. The same UV detectors were also used to measure the UV-A and UV-B rays found in natural sunlight. The analysis also took into account that a typical client visits a salon twice a month for nail maintenance, resulting in a maximum of 6-10 minutes of UV exposure per visit.

Based on these measurements, the Lighting Sciences data directly challenge the internet and media stories and the suggestions of MacFarlane-Alonso. Schoon explained, "Lighting Sciences found the UV-B output was less than amounts found in natural sunlight. UV nail lamps have internal filters that remove most of the UV-B rays. This minimal UV-B exposure is equal to only 26 seconds of sunlight exposure each day between nail appointments."

Schoon added, "The Lighting Sciences results also showed that the UV-A rays found in nail lamps were low and equal to spending approximately two (2) minutes in the sun each day between appointments. These findings make clear that nail salon clients are more likely to be exposed to UV in day-to-day activities, such as taking a walk or driving a car, than by artificial nail services."

Although not necessary, if nail clients are concerned with UV exposure, a small white cloth can be placed over the hands while using the nail lamp or sunscreen can be applied to the skin (not the nails).

For a complete copy "Do UV Nail Lamps Emit Unsafe Levels of Ultraviolet Light?" by Doug Schoon, Paul Bryson, Ph.D., and Jim McConnell.

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