How to treat contact allergies when they occur

Don't know what to do when an allergic reaction happens? Nail tech Georgie Smedley explains the action points to take to treat it and what is/isn’t within your remit.

Firstly, if a contact allergy occurs, remove the product as soon as possible, but only do this if the client doesn’t have any open wounds or blisters that are weeping. “Reactions can continue as long as the product is still on the client, so you’ve got to make sure that it is possible for you to pop their fingers in a nail wrap with soak-off solution,” says Smedley.

Next, advise your client to see their GP as soon as possible “because we aren’t experts in the medical industry”, advises Smedley. It’s also important to note that when they return to your salon (once the reaction has healed) you can’t put the client back on that system.

“When you are changing them to a different system, test if this new one is OK for the client first by putting the product on one finger before doing a full set,” she explains.

However, if it is you – the tech – that has had the reaction, Smedley says the only choice you have after a contact allergy is to use an alternative nail system in salon as “constant perseverance with the product you’ve become overexposed to will eventually lead to you becoming sensitive to even more chemicals,” she says.

She advises booking an appointment with your doctor for skin testing as well because “they will use various different chemicals to pinpoint exactly what it is you’re allergic to”. She adds, “For example, both gel-polish and liquid-to-powder have acrylates in them, so if it is an acrylate you are allergic to, then you’re not going to be able to use either of those systems.”

What are the ingredients I need to be aware of?

“Most of the ingredients mentioned below are listed in many nail products and are quite acceptable as long as they are being used safely,” explains Smedley. “But, read up on these chemicals regularly because it is usually noted on the online science pages each year which are known allergens. Also, find out who makes the product because you need to know what’s in it and where it’s made. This information should be readily available.”

Liquid and powder:

  • Methy methacrylate (MMA) - Banned in the EU
  • Ethyl methacrylate - (EMA
  • Isobutyl methacrylate
  • Tetrahydrofurfuryl methacrylate (THFMA)
  • Benzoyl Peroxide

UV/LED builder, sculpture gel and gel-polishes:

  • 2-hydroxyethy methacrylate (2-HEMA)
  • Di-HEMA Trimethylhexyl Dicarbamate (Di-HEMA)
  • Isobornyl acrylate (IBA)
  • 2-hydroxypropyl methaccrylate (2-HPMA)
  • Ethylene glycol dimethacrylate (EGDMA)
  • Urethane acrylates

Dipping resins, sil and fibreglass resins, and nail glues:

  • Ethyl-2-Cyanoacrylate

Georgie Smedley HeadshotGeorgia Smedley is managing direcor of the Georgie Smedley Group, which distributes nail brand Gelish.