Dermatologists are seeing an increase in the number of people developing “life-altering” allergies caused by gel nail polishes leaking into the skin – preventing some surgeries such as cataracts, joint replacements or dental work.
The chemicals in gel nail polishes, known as methacrylates, can cause nails to loosen or skin to develop a serious, itchy rash, experts warned today.
Methacrylate is a key ingredient in bone cements, used to stabilize hip and knee implants or as a bone filler during joint replacement surgery.
In dentistry, it is also used for dental casts and implants.
But during gel manicures, the chemicals can penetrate the skin if the ultraviolet lamps used to cure each layer of gel are not used long enough or if the equipment is poorly maintained.
The chemicals used in gel manicures, known as methacrylates, can cause nails to loosen or the skin to develop a severe, itchy rash. But allergies to these chemicals also prevent patients from accessing some medical treatments, including cataract removal, joint replacements or dental work, experts warned today.
Dr. Deirdre Buckley, a dermatologist consultant in Bath, told the BBC Today program earlier this morning that there are a number of symptoms. “It can range from the nails becoming loose to falling off, it can include a severe rash on the face, neck, upper chest,” she said.
During gel manicures, the chemicals penetrate the skin when the ultraviolet lamps used to cure each gel layer are not used long enough or if the equipment is poorly maintained
If the gel is not ‘cured’ enough, a reaction to the chemicals can occur on the skin around the nails.
Each brand of gel polish has an exact curing time that must be adhered to, often 30 seconds, 60 seconds or 90 seconds.
But simply running your nails down your arms or touching your face can trigger symptoms in those areas.
While 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 warn.
Dr. Deirdre Buckley, a dermatologist consultant in Bath, told the BBC Today program earlier this morning that people can experience a number of symptoms.
“It can range from the nails becoming loose to falling off, it can include a severe rash on the face, neck, upper chest,” she said.
“People can have trouble breathing or asthma can get worse.”
She added, “Worse, they can become sensitive to acrylics in other things, which could have implications in dentistry or if they have diabetes or orthopedic surgery and it’s a lifelong sensitization.”
Sometimes people who are allergic to gel nails may also experience swollen lips, sores on the fingers, or red and swollen cuticles.
In 2018, the British Association of Dermatologists first warned that methacrylate chemicals were causing an ‘allergy epidemic’.
The “European phenomenon” also “overwhelmingly” affected women, they said.
During their 2017 audit of 13 British and Irish dermatology clinics, 4,931 patients were tested for methacrylate allergies, of whom up to 2.4 per cent showed a reaction.
Previous research suggests that 93 percent of reactions to methacrylates occur in women.
A separate survey of 742 people visiting dermatology clinics also found that nearly one in five respondents (19 percent) had experienced adverse effects from acrylic nails applied in salons.
About 16 percent also experienced a reaction to a gel polish treatment at a salon.
A spokesman for the British Association of Dermatologists told MailOnline today: ‘We originally raised the alarm about this issue in 2018, but it’s not a problem that has gone away.
“In fact, it’s likely that the closure of nail salons during the pandemic has contributed to an increase in people using at-home kits, which poses a problem if you use them incorrectly.”
In 2018, the British Association of Dermatologists first warned that methacrylate chemicals were causing an ‘allergy epidemic’. The “European phenomenon” also “overwhelmingly” affected women, they said
The best way to safely get a gel manicure is to see a fully trained professional, experts advised
They added: “If using a home kit, make sure to use the recommended UV lamp for curing, avoid direct skin contact with the nail product and read the instructions carefully.”
The best way to safely get a gel manicure is to see a fully trained professional, experts advised.
No qualification is required to be a nail technician, but professionals often have cosmetology training or a degree in manicure.
But in some cases, the diploma can only take a day.
Earlier this year, researchers at the University of California San Diego also found that ultraviolet (UV) nail polish dryers may pose a bigger public health problem than previously thought — and cause cancer, just as tanning beds do.
They found that its use leads to cell death and cancer-causing mutations in human cells.
Unprotected exposure to both UVA and UVB light damages DNA in skin cells, causing mutations that can lead to skin cancer.