Much like Mary Poppins, I can pull just about anything out of my purse on demand. Tylenol? Sure! Kleenex? Here, take a handful. Gum? Oh, I actually have chewable mouthwash, it’s way better. I even found a shallot rolling around the bottom of my bag a few months ago — don’t ask. And then, of course, I always have my special UV-blocking fingerless gloves.
I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to get your nails done, you’re wasting your time and money if you get anything but a gel manicure, which can last for weeks without chipping. The secret to its longevity, however, is that the polish is set (or “set”) with UV light, requiring a brief session with your hands under a bright lamp that resembles a miniature tanning bed. It’s unclear how much these UV lamps damage your skin in the way an actual tan would, but I’m not willing to take any chances. A few minutes of Googling led me to what seemed like the perfect solution: UV-blocking gloves with the fingertips cut off. They’re weightless and comfortable (mine are from Solbari, but plenty of other options are on the market) and look like the opposite of what you would wear if you were robbing a bank.
Sun-protective materials have a UPF rating, the fabric equivalent of SPF. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UPF dictates how much UV radiation a fabric can filter out. The higher the rating, the higher the protection, so a UPF of 30 or above is considered the gold standard. My gloves are UPF 50+.
But are they actually doing anything? To find out, I consulted Dr. Anjali Mahto, a London-based dermatologist. “While these lamps predominantly use UVA radiation, which is known to penetrate the skin and contribute to premature skin aging as well as DNA damage to skin cells, current data suggests that the amount of radiation emitted from these lamps is relatively low,” she said. “There’s no clear evidence which links them directly to the development of skin cancer.”
Still, Dr. Mahto said that wearing some kind of protection on your hands, either UPF gloves or sunscreen with an SPF over 30, is probably a good idea given how pernicious UV radiation can be. Does she wear them? “I personally don’t have gel manicures,” she said. “Repeated treatments can cause brittleness of the nails, and the removal process of gels can be damaging to the nail plate.”
Well, I may not be prepared to take all of her advice, but in the meantime, I will continue to spread the gospel of my fingerless gloves to anyone who asks — which is pretty much everyone at the nail salon whenever I put them on. I’m pretty sure some of them also think I may also own a tinfoil hat (which, if it blocks UV rays, isn’t the worst idea …). But more often, they end up buying a pair themselves.