1 - Gel Nail Allergies - Keep Calm and have Faith
Gel Nail Allergies are not a new phenomenon to us professionals. You may be aware of the recent report on the BBC about allergic reactions to gel nail products and have some very legitimate concerns about them. I am writing this blog as a Nail professional who has worked in the industry for approximately 30 years to alleviate your concerns and offer some guidance and reassurance . An individual can develop an allergy to anything at any time and often for no apparent reason. At Nail Expressions we pride ourselves on offering a completely professional service and will always discuss the health of your nails as our client if there is any cause for concern. The images shown on the BBC of allergic reactions are deliberately horrific in order to shock and draw attention to a very real issue. This level of reaction is very likely to have happened over a significant amount of time of repeated exposure. Any informed professional would have identified the problem way before this stage and removed the product immediately.
2 - How do I know if I develop a Gel Nail Allergy?
There are sensory and visual symptoms that you can look out for
- If you experience any reddening of the skin around the nails
- Onycholysis ( seperation of the nail from the nail bed) that can’t be attributed to a trauma or injury
- thickening of the skin under the tip of your nail (hyponychium)
- Sensitivity, itchiness or soreness of your fingertips and nails that cant be accounted for by trauma.
3 - What to do if you feel you may have developed a Gel Nail Allergy...
If you are concerned about how your nails look or feel then you should discuss it with your nail technician immediately. If allergic reaction presents itself it can be difficult to easily identify what you have reacted to an often it is a process of elimination. If the reaction is limited to your nails and the surrounding tissue it is likely to be something in the nail products used and your technician will discuss with you next steps which are likely to be removal of all products from your nails. There the best thing you can do is moisturise regularly https://www.nailextensionsmaidstone.co.uk/dry-hands-causes-and-treatments/.As with all cosmetics the chemical make-up in nail products is complex but at Nail Expressions we are very strict about only using products designed by and for the Professional Nail Industry.
4 - What has caused the 'Spike' in Gel Nail Allergies?
As professional Nail technicians we see it as our duty to stay up to date with industry news and standards. As such we are members of several professional groups on social media who have been following this problem closely and have taken the time educate ourselves on this subject matter, what signs to look out for and how to respond to them but more importantly understanding the science and what we can do as professionals to minimise the risk to our clients. There are 2 potential reasons for the ‘spike’.
Firstly the widespread use of products not tested in the EU or UK. Like with everything there are safety standards for cosmetic products here in the UK. We are aware of a high number of allergies to be caused by a few specific brands. They are manufactured in China and have extremely high quantities of HEMA. They do not fall within EU or UK safety guidelines.These products are sadly still used by some professionals because they are cheap, strong and long-lasting. This maximizes the profitability to the technicians using them and generally the clients are very happy with the result until they have a reaction!!! These products are also available on the internet for non-professionals to use them. During the pandemic a large quantity of people took to doing their nails themselves at home using products that they didn’t understand, with no training or knowledge. This has then in turn led to a larger volume of people presenting with these reactions.
It is my opinion that there is a second potential cause that is being discussed although not proven yet…It is that either the covid virus or the immunisation programme has affected peoples immune systems and possibly causes a sensitivity. ‘Allergies are the result of your immune system’s response to a substance.’ https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/allergies-and-the-immune-system. ‘ ‘Immune recovery is complex, with profound persistent cellular abnormalities correlating with a change in the nature of the inflammatory response,’ https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.11.20248765v1.
In very simple terms if an allergic reaction is caused by an inflammatory immune response to a specific substance and the covid 19 virus affects our bodies immune systems inflammatory responses it is not too far fetched to consider that this could also impact on how peoples bodies respond to substances they have been in contact with for years.
5 - What is HEMA and should I avoid it?
HEMA is an abreviation for ‘hydroxyethyl methacrylate’. It is one of the many chemicals found in Gel polishes and conventional nail polish too. It is used in products to improve adhesion not only in the nail industry but also dental applications and medical applications.It has been a known allergen for many years and as such its levels and uses are regulated. It has been deemed unlikely by the SCCS to pose a risk of sensitization as long as it is applied appropriately to the nails in concentration of less that 35%. Di-HEMA is a seperate product with a different molecular composition making it a lower level allergen and so the allowable concentration is 99%.
I am happy to confirm that all of our products used in the salon are fully compliant with the current regulations and fall well below the upper limits allowed.
In my opinion HEMA as a substance is not the root cause of this problem we are all discussing as long as…
- it is being used by knowledgable professionals in the manner instructed
- the correct lamp is used with the correct product to ensure proper curing (polymerisation)
- the products being applied EU/UK compliant
To conclude avoiding HEMA is necessary if you have had an allergy test that confirms this ingredient as the allergen but as this is one of many ingredients, without confirmation using a HEMA free product would not necessarily ensure that you won’t have an allergic reaction.
6 - What can i do to reduce the risk of developing a Gel Nail Allergy?
There are certain steps you can take to protect yourself and reduce the risk of developing a Gel Nail Allergy…
- Always use a reputable salon and don’t use DIY at home kits.
- Your salon should be using the correct UV/LED lamp for the product/brand that they are applying to your nails to ensure a proper cure. ‘the acrylates – a group of chemicals used to bond the gel – do not dry properly, penetrating the nail bed and surrounding skin, causing irritation and allergies.’ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-65273991
- Make sure your nails are examined thoroughly by your nail technician for any signs or symptoms so that an allergy can be detected early.
- Keep up regular appointments so that your nails can been checked at regular intervals.
- Discuss any concerns you have with your nail technician. A good Nail Technician will be more than happy to chat to you about any concerns and should have the knowledge to respond appropriately.
- Choose a salon which only uses professional products that have been tested and comply with EU or UK guidelines. This will ensure that you are not exposing yourself to excessive and unsafe amounts of the known allergens.
Ceri- Nail Expressions