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Can Acrylic Nails Cause Cancer?

Acrylics are the demand for the new gen. 

Their glossy or matte finish, variety in colors and nail art, length, strength, and durability are the prime factors that increase their demand. 

But can acrylic nails cause cancer?

Is this manicure safe?

This post will answer all your queries. So, keep reading. 

Do Acrylic Nails Cause Cancer?

Acrylic nails are artificial nails that are made up of a combination of liquid acrylic and powder acrylic. 

These materials combine through a chemical reaction and form a semi-hard dough-like structure. 

So, where is the health risk in this manicure?

It’s not the acrylics that can be cancer-causing but the chemicals present in them. 

Are Acrylic Nails Toxic to Your Body?

There are cancer-causing chemicals present in the products that are used for doing acrylic manicures. 

These chemicals can penetrate your nail beds, which can lead to mixing these harsh chemicals with your blood. 

This is one of the reasons for the increased risk of blood cancers. 

UV lamps used to cure acrylic nails emit UV radiation that can cause skin cancer. 

Hence, not acrylic nails, but chemicals and curing lamps make our bodies more vulnerable to cancer. 

Do Gel Manicures Increase Cancer Risk?

Gel manicures are preferred for their durability and strength-providing ability. 

They can not be responsible for causing cancer alone. 

Curing lamps that are used in nail salons during the application of acrylic nails emit fairly high levels of UVA radiation.

These radiations play a major role in increasing the risk of skin cancer. 

Applying waterproof sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher is highly advised to avoid any skin damage. 

But according to studies done back in 2014 at JAMA dermatology, going for gel manicures and exposing your skin to high ultraviolet UV radiation is not that harmful. 

Cancer-causing Chemicals

There is a long list of chemicals that are present in the products that are used during the application process of acrylic nails. 

But here are three main chemicals that potentially lead to cancer:

1. Benzene

Benzene emits colorless fumes that can cause dizziness, headache, vomiting, sleeplessness, difficulty breathing, and a few more short-term problems. But in the long run, it can definitely lead to leukemia (it is the cancer of white blood cells, which spreads gradually). 

2. Formaldehyde

This colorless, strong-smelling and flammable chemical substance is well known for causing paranasal sinuses cancer, increased risk of leukemia, and nasal cavity. 

It is also known as formalin and methylene glycol and is commonly found in nail hardeners, nail polishes, and disinfectants. 

3. Ethyl Methacrylate

There are fewer chances that this chemical can, but yes, it may be cancerous. 

Cancer Risk to Nail Salon Employees

Whenever we decide to go for acrylic nails, we are supposed to spend approximately 1 hour in the nail salon. 

But nail technicians have to stay there during their working hours, not just for an hour.

We are vulnerable to cancer risk in that hour only. So can you imagine the risk level for the nail technicians?

The exposure to such chemicals they face the whole day is hazardous. 

This is because the harmful chemicals get trapped in the air and enter the body while breathing. 

These particles are responsible for developing cancer, respiratory issues, and skin irritation in nail artists.

These can be life-threatening; hence, professional safety is the need of the hour for nail salon employees. 

Health Risks From Acrylic Nail Fumes

Studies and research have found that volatile organic compounds (VOC) are the main cause of this problem. 

These mainly emit from acetone, methyl methacrylate, ethyl methacrylate, isopropyl alcohol, and formaldehyde. These chemicals are widely used in almost every nail salon in one form or the other. 

Numerous activities take place inside a nail salon that requires the use of chemicals; hence, the air quality decreases and becomes hazardous. 

Not just chemicals, but the dust also. 

Dust is produced while filing down acrylic nails.

Most nail techs prefer wearing masks while applying and removing acrylic nails to avoid inhaling these dust particles. 

Chest tightness and headaches are the first things that you will experience after inhaling acrylic dust.

The severity of such health problems can even lead to pregnancy complications. 

Ultraviolet Rays and Skin Cancer

Self-tanning beds, sun, and nail curing lights emit high levels of Ultraviolet UV rays. 

This damages our DNA which, due to long-term exposure, makes our skin more prone to skin cancer. 

However, most nail salons do not use such UV light or LED light, but a few surely do for curing acrylic nails.

After some research, it was found that the risk of getting skin cancer is much higher due to ‘tanning beds’. 

On the other hand, acrylic nails can not harm your skin or natural nails at such a high level regardless of the number they are done repeatedly. 

Hence, acrylic nails are a bit less harmful when we have a raised concern about skin cancer. 


While there is still a doubt whether acrylic nails can cause cancer or not, it is better to take some precautions beforehand.

Do not forget to apply waterproof sunscreens with SPF 15 or above as they will protect you from direct exposure to sunlight and the UV light used in any nail salon.

This can prevent any allergic reaction too.

It would be the best option to avoid such lamps and let your manicure air-dry. 

Many healthcare professionals from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health advise wearing safety glasses and fingerless gloves while manicuring.

Wearing long sleeves and washing your face, hands, and arms frequently with water can also protect you from numerous factors.

You must sit in a properly ventilated room so that the fumes produced while either doing or getting the manicure gets out from the area. 

Can Cancer Patients Get Acrylic Nails?

You may notice changes in your nails and skin if you undergo chemotherapy. 

The nail bed becomes brittle and discolored, and even the growth rate gets affected. 

You may wear nail polish and should remove it using oil-based remover only.

Hence, you should not undergo any professional manicures such as acrylics or gel polish manicures, or any other type of fake nails. 

Manicures done at nail salons require the use of UV light that increases the exposure of your skin and nails to ultraviolet rays, which can worsen the situation.

If you want to go for such a nail treatment, consult your doctor and your nail expert first. 

Acrylic Nails During Cancer Treatment

If you are a cancer patient undergoing therapies and medications, you should avoid applying any type of fake nail.

This is because the chemicals that are present in artificial nails can penetrate your nail bed which may worsen the situation.

Applying gel polish, acrylics, or other nail products can harm your nails and skin. 

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