The hidden danger of your gel nails: Experts warn of rise in ‘life-changing’ allergies triggered by gel polishes leaking into the skin – which can stop people having operations for cataracts, joint replacements or dental work
Dermatologists are seeing an increase in the number of people developing ‘life-changing’ allergies triggered by gel nail polishes leaking into the skin – which can stop them having some operations like cataracts, joint replacement or dental work.
The chemicals in gel nail polishes, known as methacrylates, can trigger an allergic reaction if they leak into the skin, which can see nails loosen and the skin develop a severe, itchy rash, experts warned today.
Those who suffer this reaction are then unable to tolerate being exposed to the chemical, which is used in routine procedures such as fillings and hip replacements.
At-home gel manicures are the most likely culprit for triggering the painful reaction but even salon nail treatments can pose a risk if the technician is poorly-trained.
Dermatologists, who warn that cases of the reaction are on the rise, today urged Brits to only get a gel manicure from a fully-trained professional.
Methacrylate is a key ingredient in bone cements, which is used to stabilize hip and knee implants or as a bone filler during joint replacement operations.
In dentistry, it is also used for dental casts and implants.
But during gel manicures, the chemicals can enter the skin when the ultraviolet lamps used to harden each layer of gel, are not used for long enough or the equipment is poorly maintained.
If the gel is not sufficiently ‘cured’ a reaction to the chemicals can occur on the skin around the nails.
Each gel polish brand has an exact curing time which should be adhered to, often either 30 seconds, 60 seconds or 90 seconds.
Yet simply brushing your nails against your arms or touching your face can produce symptoms in those areas.
Once sensitized, the body will no longer tolerate acrylates, meaning anyone with an allergy cannot have medical procedures in which methacrylates are used.
Although reactions are worse when people use at-home kits, even professionally applied acrylic and gel nails can cause reactions if technicians are poorly trained, experts have warned.
Dr Deirdre Buckley, a consultant dermatologist in Bath, told the BBC’s Today Programme earlier this morning that people could experience a number of symptoms.
‘It can range from the nails loosening to falling off, it can include a severe rash on the face, the neck, the upper chest,’ she said.
‘People can have trouble breathing or asthma can be worsened.’
She added: ‘Even worse than they can become sensitive to acrylates in other things, which can have implications in dentistry or if they’re diabetic or for orthopaedic surgery and it’s a lifelong sensitization.’
On occasions, those who are allergic to gel nails can also experience swollen lips, sores on fingers or red and swollen cuticles.
Dr Buckley, also of the British Association of Dermatologists, told MailOnline today: ‘Many people are unaware of potential medical and dental implications if they become sensitised to nail methacrylates.
‘The same or very similar methacrylates are used in white dental fillings, enamel tooth coatings, orthopaedic bone cement, diabetic glucose sensors and insulin pumps. This can have serious consequences for future medical care.’
She added: ‘It’s important that people are aware of the potential risks of artificial nail products, whether they are having them applied in a salon or at home.
‘Nail technicians are particularly at risk and should wear nitrile gloves when applying the products, changing them every thirty minutes with a no-touch technique.’
In recent weeks women have also taken to TikTok to share their experiences of gel nail polish allergies.
One user @katieadamson5 shared images of her fingers blistering and swelling after applying gel nail polish using an ultraviolet lamp, adding ‘when you have an allergic reaction to uv gel polish. Never again.’
In another video, one TikTok account detailed the flaking, swelling, itching and blistering she experienced just hours after applying gel nail polish.
As a result she was forced to see an emergency care nurse to treat the allergy, she added.