Nail Allergies Hit The Headlines


What nail professionals need to know.

You might have seen that there has been a lot of coverage in the news recently regarding the rise in nail allergies as a result of gel nail applications. Understandably, this has sent many nail techs and clients into a tailspin, and a lot of misinformation has been circulating as a result. Here, we take a look at what the facts are and whether you should be concerned.

BBC Investigation
The subject of nail allergies first hit the headlines thanks to an investigation conducted by the government. This was due to a rise in people seeking medical help as a result of allergies caused by gel nails, and this has led to symptoms such as loose nails, the loss of a nail altogether, skin rashes, and in some rare cases, breathing difficulties. Whilst this is obviously concerning, there are a few facts which are important to mention before everyone abandons their gel manicures for good.

Gel Ingredients
An amendment to the Cosmetic Regulations Act in 2021 stated that nail products containing HEMA (methacrylates) could not be sold directly to the consumer. This is a powerful ingredient and should only be used by a trained professional. There are also many other consumer nail products which have not be subject to the UK and EU safety standards, and could essentially contain anything, making them extremely dangerous.

UV Lamps
Gel polish needs to be cured using a UV lamp, and these are adding to the problem. In the UK, a UV lamp should be at least 36 watts or the correct wavelength for the product being used. Buying the wrong lamp or using it in the wrong way can then cause over exposure, and lead to many of the allergies we have been hearing so much about.

DIY Kits
Sadly, many of the problem ingredients and equipment are found in the kits being sold for use at home. They have often not been subject to the stringent safety checks that they should have been and are in the hands of people who have not received sufficient training. This makes a potent combination, and as such, these kits are potentially very dangerous. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, many people turned to these kits as a solution to not being able to visit salons, and the ramifications of this are now starting to show.

Professional Nail Treatments
If you are a nail professional, with hours of training behind you, then the main message is not to panic. If you use a reputable brand and the right equipment then your treatments will be safe. However, this is a great opportunity to educate your clients in why you are the better option, and why paying your prices is better than the risks of DIY kits.

Use your social media, emails and displays in our salon to talk about the professional brand that you use (many of them are currently providing some great resources for you to use), explain the levels of hygiene and sanitation that you offer and show the training that you have undergone to make you a professional in your field.

Since the news report about these allergies broke, there have been some worrying discussions about displaying signs effectively telling clients that they undergo nail treatments at their own risk. If you are one of the nail techs looking to do this, please stop. Not only are you telling your clients that you don’t have faith in your products and training, you are also not covering yourself legally. If the brands you use are professional, then you do not need to worry about these things. It has been known for years that disclaimers do not stand up in court if you are sued – having undergone training you are viewed as the professional and the client is not deemed informed enough to make a decision about the safety of a treatment. Instead, take your signs down, invest in the right products and back yourself.

Who to contact
As a nail professional, if you have any concerns then your first port of call should be the brand that you work with. If they haven’t already, they should be able to send you resources such as safety certificates and lists of ingredients to show you that they are safe to use. The Federation of Nail Professionals are also a terrific source of information and have been working hard to educate people in the light of this report. They are run by Marian Newman and many other stalwarts of the nail industry, whose collective knowledge is encyclopedic. They will be able to help you look at your brands, processes and client education if you need it.

The world is finally waking up to the fact that there is a massive difference between professional salon treatments and home kits, which many in the industry have always known are dangerous. Don’t allow this situation to worry you, instead use it to your advantage and let clients see why you are the safe choice for them.

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