Adverse Skin Reactions

Bold Apps

Posted on July 18 2019

Nail products are designed for the nail plate ONLY! So, its paramount we avoid skin contact the best we can and ensure proper curing is happening at all times.

The nail plate is dead and unable to be penetrated to the nail bed by the chemicals and nail products used during nail services.

What is a Skin reaction?

An allergy to nail products develops in stages through a process called sensitisation, the result of prolonged or repeated exposure to a particular substance over days, weeks, months or even years.

Ultimately the skin’s natural protective barrier is breached, enabling that substance to combine with skin proteins and be carried via white blood cells through the body. Those cells, whose job it is to work within the immune system, react by releasing chemicals that produce the symptoms we commonly see with skin allergies, generally referred to as atopic dermatitis or eczema.

You're not allergic to the manicure itself exactly, but the chemicals you come into contact with during the process.

How is it caused?

Allergic reactions are likely to happen when uncured (still wet) substances touch the skin, and that can involve loosening of nails or a severe red, itchy rash — not just localised to the fingertips, but potentially anywhere on the body that has come into contacts with the nails.

What are the Symptoms? or What does it look like?

An irritation occurs quickly, within minutes or hours after brief but heavy exposure or repeated low exposure. As with allergies, the outer layer of skin has been penetrated, but the response is acute and localised. Symptoms, typically a pink hue and blisters that might turn into sores that become scaly or crusty, tend to peak in about 24 hours. The condition is usually called, contact dermatitis.

You might experience cold or seasonal allergy-type symptoms if you're allergic to something in your manicure. This happens when you breathe in fumes, which cause a condition called allergic rhinitis, according to Healthline. Allergic rhinitis can also cause hives, fatigue, blisters, coughing, sore throat, sneezing, and other respiratory or skin discomforts.

The visible reaction to the allergen can appear as redness, swelling and blistering of the skin surrounding the nail, sometimes the nail will burn and then separate or lift off of the nail bed (onycholysis).” Other common symptoms include dry and bumpy skin, and even nail plate discoloration.

“Nobody develops an allergy upon first exposure; it takes repeated exposures for this to happen,”

 Is this a new thing?

Why are we now seeing this?

Uncured methacrylate, acrylate oligomers, and monomers found in gels, formaldehyde resins or toluene in some polishes and hardeners, and even dust or fumes floating through the air of the salon could lead to a negative reaction

The rise in ‘Made in China’ brands whom are falsely advertising and flooding into our market is proving to be a cause for concern and it’s causing an "allergy epidemic" worldwide. Products from China often contain excessive amounts of HEMA and photo initiator - both higher risk allergens. Special effects products like temperature changing gels and spider gels may contain illegal ingredients - many of their MSDS’s don't even state which ingredients are used to create these effects! Chinese made nail products are still required to be tested on animals so they are not yet cruelty free even though we see those claims all through their marketing.

How common is this to see in everyday salons?

Nail-related allergies are more common among nail technicians who handle these products every day and do not use correct methods to avoid skin contact or are inadequately trained and do not understand the risks of over exposure, rather than affected customers who visit the salon a couple times a month, max.

But suppose you have a long-time client who is slowly building up an allergy to one of your products. What are you likely to see? Remember, if you don't get uncured or under cured product or dust on your skin, it can't bite! We recommend to always keep a small margin between the products and the skin. Not only will this help prevent over exposure but will increase the longevity of the manicure itself by enabling a good seal to the perimeter of the polish itself.

Genetics also has a part to play and those with other allergies, may be more susceptible.

The biggest downside to someone developing an allergy of some sort is that once they develop then it can last a lifetime!! If you are using a product that is not manufactured to strict regulations and may contain higher levels of chemicals or even unsafe ingredients then you or your clients are at risk of developing an allergy and even if you then change to a reputable brand that is manufactured to strict regulations they still may have a very low and legal amount of what you have become allergic to so there for you or your client are unable to have any gel polish or product of any brand.

How can we improve & prevent this from happening?

A nail tech’s best opportunity for preventing a client’s adverse reaction occurs before a service begins, with a close evaluation at the start of every appointment.

Also, you can also help prevent these by:

  • Wearing gloves—nitrile/powder free gloves 0.19 thickness are preferred as clients may be latex-sensitive.
  • Keeping disinfected tools in containers with air flow after disinfecting.
  • Keep all working surfaces clean and dust-free. Wipe down with a disinfectant.
  • Washing hands after a service is a great way to ensure that prolonged skin contact doesn’t occur.
  • Having a ventilation option to help reduce dust and vapors e.g. an emendee table.
  • Empty the rubbish daily.

We have to think about this more seriously. Take note of what you are doing and touching in the salon. Are you touching a gel brush with your fingertips, are your arms resting on the table in dust, are we using the correct lamp to cure our brand of product and ensure proper curing?

What else to we need to look out for?

In regards to the claim ‘Cruelty Free’, most nail companies are but it does not mean because they don’t advertise it that they are not. If you research this further you will find that there is no nail product manufacturer in the world certified cruelty free as at some point the ingredients brought in to make their products have been tested for medical purposes so that they are not cancer causing and that is often required by government regulation if manufactured in the USA or EU where Consumer safety is the number one priority for cosmetic and personal care products companies, and manufacturers are committed to upholding strict FDA regulations as required by the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). The law requires that every cosmetic and personal care product and its ingredients be substantiated for safety before going to market, and that they contain no prohibited ingredients. These USA & EU Cosmetic companies take their safety responsibility very seriously and often surpass the requirements of the law with additional consumer safety measures.

I want the best for you and your clients so please do educate yourself more on these topic’s.

I HIGHLY recommend Doug Schoon, with over thirty years’ experience as a research scientist, international lecturer, author and educator, Doug is a leading authority in the cosmetic, beauty and personal care industry. He is always updating information and brings the facts.


This article has been put together with the combination of my own knowledge and further research from the following references:

Doug Schoon - 55 & 92

Linda Kossoff is a health and beauty writer in Los Angeles.

Dana Stern, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and nails specialist in the New York City area.

Bob Giblett, CEO at Nails and CEO at Ikoniq Nails

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