The First Thing You Should Do If You Experience An Allergic Reaction To Your Gel Polish

People hit the nail salon to have their fingers and toes beautifully manicured. Every once in a while, however, things go terribly awry in the form of an allergic reaction to gel manicures. This isn't necessarily the fault of the gel products themselves. You probably already know that people have allergic reactions all the time to substances that are harmless to much of the population. For example, some people are terribly allergic to pollen, shellfish, and pet dander, while others skip through life totally unaffected. 


Gel polish reactions are much the same, and occur when the allergen causes the body to start producing antibodies as a protective effort, says the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. These antibodies raise the alarm to the skin, throat, nose, etc. that something is very wrong and that exposure to the allergen needs to be handled. This can be as minor as an annoyingly itchy skin rash or hives, or as major as anaphylaxis, which can cause serious illness or death. Obviously, none of this is what a person wants or needs when they go to get some chic nail art, so it's important to know what to look for and how to treat it quickly and effectively.

Heed these signs of a gel manicure allergy

Science discovers new chemicals and substances all the time as part of the ongoing effort to do things bigger, better, and faster. Unfortunately, it turns out that such solutions aren't always the safest for people. Among these are methacrylate chemicals, which are found in all kinds of products including certain leather goods, paints, and — you guessed it — fingernail adhesives. For people who are sensitive or outright allergic to these chemicals, the fingernails develop an intensely itchy red rash, and the nail itself can even loosen altogether. The rash can also show up elsewhere on the body, which causes a lot of people to not put two and two together about gel polish causing the reaction, per Ramsay Health Care


Anyone who experiences a rash or other signs of allergic reaction should take action swiftly to avoid complications. If it's a mild reaction around the nail, see a technician to remove the polish immediately and safely. If the reaction is more severe in nature, consult a doctor, as it can quickly spiral into a painful infection.

This type of gel manicure causes the most trouble

Although home gel kits are rising in popularity, it turns out that they are more likely to cause an allergic reaction because gel curing time and technique — coupled with good ultraviolet drying devices — make success more likely. "They [people who use home kits] are not trained enough and educated on the risks associated with handling acrylates," according to a 2021 study published in the journal Advances in Dermatology and Allergology. "Necessary protective measures are not usually used by 'home beauticians'. Moreover, they may change artificial nails too often and their skin comes into contact with nail polish more frequently causing a higher risk of sensitization."


The convenience of home kits also poses another threat to nail health. Since people are more likely to change their gel manicures often while at home, this means that they are exposing their nails on a more regular basis to acetone, which is necessary to take off gel polish. Per U.S. Dermatology Partners, "many people are allergic to acetone." As a result, "Gel manicures (or any type of manicure) may not be a good option for you." If this sounds like your personal situation, it's probably best to stick to the occasional visit to a trained professional, just to be on the safe side.