Can acrylic nails cause cancer?


Acrylic nails are a popular type of artificial nails that are used to add glamor, length, and strength to natural nails. If you have heard rumors that acrylic nails may be linked to cancer, you may be concerned about the possibility of nail cancer or skin cancer under the nails after a manicure.

However, the potential link between acrylic nails and cancer is much more complex. Exposure to a combination of chemicals used in the skin care process and ultraviolet (UV) light, which is sometimes used to treat or dry nails, can increase the risk of developing nose, throat, and skin cancers. , blood or lymphatic system.

However, it is important to note that some studies have looked at cancer risk after decades of exposure rather than accidental manicure. Plus, the results have been mixed, so more research is needed to find out how risky it is to work in a nail salon or get a manicure.

So are acrylic nails safe or bad for you? Read on to find out everything you need to know about acrylic nails and cancer risk, and how to protect yourself by reducing your exposure to known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents).

What are acrylic nails?

Acrylic nails are artificial nails made from a mixture of powdered and liquid chemicals that harden after painting. Since removing them yourself can damage your nails, it's best to hire a professional to remove them properly, including filing, soaking, and rehydration.

Cancer-causing chemicals

Applying acrylic nails can expose you to a combination of cancer-causing chemicals. This may be why some research suggests that regular nail salon employees may be at higher risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Cancer risk for nail salon staff

A 2019 study in the Environmental Pollution section found that nail artists who worked for more than 20 years had a significantly higher risk of developing cancer, possibly due to increased exposure to pollutants .

Potentially carcinogenic chemicals found in acrylic nail products include:

  • Benzene : This carcinogen has been linked to cancers of the blood, including leukemia and multiple myeloma , as well as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma , a cancer of the lymphatic system. It is found in nail polishes, nail polish removers, nail hardeners, and nail glue.
  • Formaldehyde (formalin or methylene glycol) : This carcinogen has been linked to an increased risk of nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia. It is found in nail polishes, nail hardeners, and disinfectants .
  • Ethyl Methacrylate – A probable carcinogen found in acrylic nail products .

Health Hazard From Acrylic Nail Fumes

This chemical smell you notice when you walk into a nail salon comes from volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds volatilize easily and are linked to many health problems such as headaches, eye, skin, and throat irritation, shortness of breath, pregnancy complications, and cancer .

UV lamps and skin cancer

Although acrylic and gel nails do not always dry under UV light or lamps, they often do dry. Long-term exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, tanning beds, and nail lamps can damage the skin and, in turn, increase the risk of skin cancer .

However, that doesn't necessarily mean a disturbing link between manicures and skin cancer. While more research is needed, a 2014 study published in JAMA Dermatology suggests that the risk of skin cancer from nail polish, even multiple times, is likely low .

Tanning salons , on the other hand, emit much more UV light and are to blame for approximately 419,245 skin cancers in the US each year .


While some intimidating headlines may point you, more research is needed to determine cancer risk from acrylic nail products or regular trips to the salon. What we do know is that exposure to carcinogenic chemicals and ultraviolet light can increase over the years. For this reason, it is best to take steps to protect yourself, especially if you work in a nail salon.

If you are a nail salon owner or employee, you can reduce your exposure by using proper measures such as wearing safety glasses, long sleeves, and gloves; frequent washing of hands, hands and face; and make sure you have first-rate ventilation at your desk and in the building as recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) .

Can't live without a weekly mani? You can protect your hands from skin damage by skipping part of your manicure with a UV lamp or applying a waterproof sunscreen SPF 15 or higher before your visit, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) .

If you are doing your nails at home, be sure to read all instructions and warnings on the label and move to a well-ventilated area before starting work.

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