Dermatologists are warning that popular nail gel polishes are causing an increase in the number of people developing “life-changing” allergies that could prevent them from having certain operations.
Experts say that chemicals in nail gel polishes, which are methacrylates, can seep into the skin and cause an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of such a reaction include nails becoming loosened from the nail bed and the skin around the nails developing a severe rash.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday morning (14 April), Dr Deirdre Buckley, a consultant dermatologist from Bath, said: “[Symptoms] can range from the nails loosening to falling off, it can include a severe rash on the face, the neck, the upper chest.
“People can have trouble breathing or asthma can be worsened. Even worse, 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 life-long sensitisation,” she added.
Methacrylate is often used as a bone cement for knee and hip implants, as well as in dental prosthesis and dentures.
In 2019, the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) first issued a warning about nail gel polishes and said they were causing an “epidemic” of contact allergies.
The concerns were based on a study that found that 2.4 per cent of people tested had an allergy to at least one type of methacrylate chemical. The allergy “overwhelmingly” affected women, it said.
Gel nails which are derived from methacrylates, are applied over a person’s natural nails and must be “cured” under an ultraviolet (UV) lamp. Meanwhile, acrylic nails are a a paste applied over the natural nails and left to harden with exposure to air.
Gel polish is a premixed product and a hybrid of gel and nail varnish and must be hardened under a UV lamp.
The BAD raised concerns about all three methods and warned that the sensitisation occurs when the uncured product comes into contact with any part of the skin. It can occur in both professional and at-home settings.
Beauticians are also at risk of developing the allergy as protective gloves may not offer enough protection and the methacrylates could pass through the gloves.
Dr David Orton, of the BAD, said: “It is really important that people know they can develop allergies from artificial nails. The truth is that there will be many women out there with these allergies who remain undiagnosed, because they may not link their symptoms to their nails, especially if the symptoms occur elsewhere on the body.”
He added: “Salon owners need to consider the level of training they offer staff in this area as there is a genuine occupational hazard that should be mitigated.
“An important precaution is to use nitrile gloves which are replaces and disposed of every 30 minutes and removed with a ‘no touch’ technique. Methacrylates should be kept away from all direct skin contact.”