Are gel nail polish allergies are on the rise? We asked the experts about what it means for our manicures

·3-min read
gel nail kit allergic reaction
Are gel nail polish allergies on the rise?StockPlanets - Getty Images

We're always here for a nail trend. However, the most popular one as of late isn't a doughnut glaze or micro-French tip: instead, there's been a rise in reports of people suffering from allergies after their gel manicure.

The spike has caused the government to announce it is investigating the growing number of cases after the British Association of Dermatologists released a statement warning that the main culprit is a chemical called methacrylate, which can be found in gel polish and can cause allergic reactions for some.

According to the statement, the allergies are occurring if the gel polish isn't cured (AKA when it 'sets' under a UV lamp) accurately or sufficiently enough, leading to the skin becoming sensitised to the chemicals.

"We call this Allergic Contact Dermatitis. A type of reaction to a specific chemical which is life long due to the skin’s memory," says Dr Emma Wedgeworth.

Due to this, they're warning us mere mortal folks without the necessary manicure qualifications – and therefore, more likely to make this type of error – to use their at-home gel nail kits with caution.

The report warns that these allergic reactions can in some cases be 'life-changing' due to the body no longer being able to tolerate the acrylates after a reaction has occurred.

If you're not familiar with acrylates (we don't blame you), they feature in a number of medical treatments – like dental fillings and in some diabetes medication – so can cause an issue in the future if an allergy develops.

These reactions can arise in the form of swelling, eczema and redness around the nails after a gel manicure, and can causing skin to peel or look blistered. These reactions can also transfer to other areas of the body, such as the eye area and neck if the chemical has been in contact.

"Yes, we have seen reactions on the face, eyelids and neck due to transfer of the chemicals when we touch our face," says Dr Wedgeworth.

Although these reactions sound serious, Dr Wedgeworth does stress that "the reactions are still uncommon".

To help lower the risks, Dr Wedgeworth advises avoiding having a manicure if you have damaged skin or going OTT when it comes to trimming your cuticles. You can also cut back on how frequently you go for your gel mani.

If you do experience a reaction after your mani, Dr Wedgeworth recommends: "Removing the nails immediately and seek medical advice as you may need medicated creams or even tablets. You may also need to be tested to work out exactly which chemical is the cause".

If (like us) you've been getting a gel mani for as long as you can remember, you might be questioning why these allergic reactions are occurring now. Dr Wedgeworth believes the rise is due to "the increase in people having gel and acrylic nails compared to a few years ago and potentially more availability of DIY kits".

If you have experienced an allergic reaction to your manicure, make sure to speak to your doctor to find the best medical solution for you.

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