The rise in ‘severe’ allergies associated with gel and acrylic nails

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Navigating the Allergic Risks and Chemical Complexities of Gel Manicures

In the ever-evolving world of beauty, self-care and of course self-expression, nail enhancements have gained increasing popularity. Allowing us to adorn our fingertips with intricate designs and vibrant colours, gel and acrylic nails, two of the most sought-after nail enhancements, offer long-lasting results and creative possibilities. However, beneath their glamorous façade lies a potential hazard for ‘severe’ long and short term allergies. I’ve stopped my fortnightly manicure with immediate effect in favour of natural nails. Below, I’ll tell you why.

What ACTUALLY are Gel and Acrylic Nails?
Gel and acrylic nails have transformed the way people beautify their hands, providing a durable and polished appearance that can last for weeks. Gel nails are made by applying layers of a special gel formula onto the natural nail and then curing it under UV or LED light. Acrylic nails, on the other hand, are created using a mixture of liquid monomer and powdered polymer that forms a durable substance when it dries.

The Allergy Conundrum
While gel and acrylic nails offer polished and long lasting results, a growing concern within the beauty industry is the potential for allergic reactions. Allergies to the chemicals found in nail products can result in discomfort, itching, redness, swelling, and in severe cases, blistering and infection. Some individuals may experience an allergic reaction upon the initial application, while others may develop an allergy over time due to repeated exposure. Some dermatologists are even claiming that these beloved gel polishes might be triggering profound and life-altering allergies. The spotlight of blame falls on at-home manicure kits and inadequately trained nail technicians.

Common Allergens and Chemicals
Two primary culprits linked to allergic reactions in gel and acrylic nail products are methacrylate compounds and acrylate compounds. Methacrylates are commonly found in nail primers, while acrylates are used in nail adhesives and topcoats. When these compounds come into contact with the skin, they can trigger an immune response, leading to allergic symptoms. In addition to methacrylates and acrylates, other potentially problematic chemicals include toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which are commonly found in nail polishes and some gel systems. These chemicals have been associated with skin and respiratory irritation, and long-term exposure may pose more serious health risks.

Prevention and Precautions
To minimise the risk of developing allergies and other adverse reactions from gel and acrylic nails, there are several steps you can take:

  1. Patch Testing: Before getting a full set of gel or acrylic nails, consider asking for a patch test to check for potential allergies.
  2. Seek Professional Services: Choose a reputable nail technician or salon with a strong emphasis on hygiene and safe application practices.
  3. Hydration and Maintenance: Keep your nails and surrounding skin hydrated by using cuticle oils and moisturisers. Well-hydrated skin is less likely to develop irritations.
  4. Limit Exposure: If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction or skin irritation, promptly remove the nail enhancements, and consult a dermatologist.

The Path Forward
As the demand for nail enhancements continues to rise, so does the need for awareness about the potential dangers they can harbour. Beauty enthusiasts should be equipped with knowledge about the chemicals present in nail products, along with the signs of allergic reactions. By making informed decisions and practising proper aftercare, we can enjoy the beauty and creativity that gel and acrylic nails offer while minimising the risks they pose to our health.

I have ditched the gels for good. I’m not against them and they make my life a lot easier, but, I’m more in favour of a more natural look these days.
I recently discovered some amazing products that give that manicured look without the risk, and I want to share them with you!