Looks To Die For: Your Salon Manicures and Stick Straight Hair May Be Killing You

Ultra violet lamps used in salons may increase your risk of skin cancer. Brazilian blowouts have noxious carcinogen formaldehyde. How much are we willing to risk to look pretty?

Hailed as the busy woman's salvation, the Shellac or OPI gel manicure lasts twice as long as your average manicure and takes a third of the time to dry. The catch? You place your hands under ultra violet lamps for ten minutes (twice the length of a normal manicure) to set the polish. Now, we all know the lamps in tanning beds can increase the risk of skin cancer. But, the makers of Shellac claim it's not the same and that they have studies proving UV lights are only as harmful as a few minutes in the sun. Either way, we're just saying.

This isn’t exactly news: a 2009 medical journal found a correlation in two cases of skin cancer in women with repeated UV nail lamp exposure. But seeing that pretty nails are having their day in the sun (um…lamp) right now, and given that gels really are convenient, it’s no surprise that people have decided to forget the facts and go about their merry ways. Dermatologists, including one recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, do agree however that the UV light is indeed a risk factor and advise women who can’t part with their gel manicures to lather up the zinc or titanium sunblock before placing hands under the dryer.

Speaking of dryers, did you hear about how the makers of Brazilian Blowout, the hair straightening technique that was found to have noxious carcinogen formaldehyde, settled a class-action lawsuit for $4.5 million. That may sound like a lot, but so many women have blamed the product for nose bleeds, breathing problems, headaches and eye irritation that each case is only getting $35 (with a maximum of three cases per person) -- that’s about just enough to cover the co-pay.

In addition to this slap on the wrist, the product can no longer be labeled “formaldehyde free” and must include more detailed instructions on how to use it in a well-ventilated area. But, amazingly, it's still allowed on the shelves!

Remember the lead-in-lipstick debate? Women are putting themselves at risk from head to toe. Is present tense “beauty” so crucial we’re willing to risk our future tense health? Let’s start taking these warnings seriously. And, maybe if we tried harder to fight against society’s rigid idea of feminine perfection, we can start putting away the lead-heavy lipstick and not find ourselves fighting for our lives down the road.

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