AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Is the Gel Manicure worth the Damage to Your DNA?

Nail salons are filled with these UV lamps that create the perfect gel manicure which lasts for weeks and dries instantly. These manicures are advertised all around and consumers are sucked in, including myself. I love getting an easy gel manicure and saving myself the hassle of having chipped nails that require at least 20 minutes to dry. However, by placing our hands into these lamps, we are causing ourselves years of permanent damage to our DNA. But how does exposure to UV rays cause these intense issues? It all boils down to one thing; the DNA in our skin cells.

The two main types of skin cancer are melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is less common but more dangerous than non-melanoma. While skin cancer can be hereditary, there is evidence that exposure to UV rays causes skin cancer. PubMed Central explains DNA damage caused by UV rays results in deamination, depurination, and depyrimidination. Deamination is the loss of an amino group from a compound that can convert one base to another, meaning the deamination of cytosine from UV rays would result in the production of uracil. Depurination and depyrimidination are the total removal of purine and pyrimidine bases. This removes the deoxyribose sugars in the cell which causes breakage in the DNA backbone. Exposure to these oxidative stressors can cause double DNA strand breaks which are the most dangerous as they leads to the loss of genetic material. These interferences damage the components of DNA molecules and the normal functions of the cells. The damage that UV rays cause to the DNA in skin cells lead to abnormal growth and the start of benign or malignant growths in the skin, which can ultimately lead to cancer. 

Direct and indirect DNA damage by ionizing radiation

A study done by the University of California used UV lamps that are used to cure gel manicures to study their affects on skin cells. They used three different cells types; adult human skin keratinocytes, human foreskin fibroblasts, and mouse embryonic fibroblasts. They observed that that exposure to the UV lamps for 20 minutes caused between 20-30 percent cell death, and three consecutive 20 minute exposures led to 65-70 percent cell death. Additionally, the exposure caused mitochondrial and DNA damage to the surviving cells. The mutations found in these cells are representative of those found in human skin cancer, proving that the consistent use of these lamps can lead to skin cancer. In another study, Maria Zhivagui, a postdoctoral scholar, exposed three cell types to acute and chronic exposure of UV lights. In both conditions, cell death, damage, and DNA mutations were observed. There was also an elevation of reactive oxygen species molecules which are known to cause DNA damage and mutations that are found in melanoma patients.

UV manicure lamps (15157277325)

Therefore, the study proves how damaging UV rays are to our cells. The risk of using these lamps is not worth the risks they bring to your DNA. Alternatives to UV lamps are just getting normal manicures, press on nails, or powder manicures, which do not require the exposure to UV rays.

This connects to what we have been learning in AP Biology because DNA’s structure is composed of nucleotide molecules. These nucleotides contain a phosphate group, deoxyribose sugar, and one the four nitrogenous bases; adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. UV damage can lead to chemical changes in these nitrogenous bases and to the structure of the DNA. Additionally, this can cause disruptions in the reading of genetic code during protein synthesis which results in incorrect sequence of amino acids. We have learned that altering amino acid structure completely changes the function of the proteins, which is why UV rays lead to mutations such as skin cancer.

So, next time you decide to get a gel manicure will you think about the damage you are causing to your DNA? Is the risk worth it?


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1 Comment

  1. Sandovalosome

    Hi Nucliyatide! I am guilty of getting UV gel manicures. I hate to admit it, but I have been getting UV manicures for over a year. I knew UV rays from the lamps aren’t great for our health, but I did not know why/how. With what we learned in AP Bio and after reading your blog, I am now aware of the dangers that these specific manicures have, especially for someone who gets them frequently.
    After doing further research in hopes to find a way to protect myself from the radiation. One article suggested to wear gloves with the fingertips cut off (which I have seen people do so it is not uncommon), or to apply sunscreen to your hands (,the%20hands%20can%20also%20help.). However, most sunscreens protect us from UV-B rays, and the UV lamps mostly emit UV-A rays. After reading your blog, I am highly considering switching to powder-gel!

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