Home-use gel nail kits lead to increase in allergic reactions

The British Association of Dermatologists has reported a surge in the number of people coming forward with allergies as a result of home-use gel-polish and acrylic nail kits.

BBC Radio 4’s consumer affairs programme You and Yours aired an investigation this week into serious allergic reactions from the kits, after high-street chemist Boots said it had withdrawn one brand of gel-polish kit from sale while it checked over the labelling. 

The British Association of Dermatologists said common symptoms from reactions included sore nail beds and cuticles. Consumer interviews read out on the segment described highly sensitive skin that felt like it had been “dipped in acid”, “puss-filled blisters”, and one person even reported experiencing her natural nails lifting from the nail beds. Gemma Lambert, PB award-winning tech and managing director of Nail Team training academy and wholesaler, spoke the programme and said she’d also seen a rise in clients seeking help with damage to nails and skin from doing their own nails at home.

These reactions were described as “pretty serious” by Jason Williams, president of the British Society of Cutaneous Allergies, who was also interviewed and told the programme: “We’ve seen an increase in the number of patients presenting with problems to these nail systems. Historically we would have seen beauty therapists in salons – people who work with these chemicals for long periods of time – becoming allergic, whereas what we’re seeing now is the end consumer… anecdotally we’re seeing a lot of patients telling us they’re using these home nail kits.”

He said problems often arise when consumers mix and match components from different kits and systems and use lamps with unsuitable configurations for the products they are used to cure, believing that every UV or LED lamp is the same. “Because [consumers are] unaware of the risks they choose different colours, different products from different nail systems,” he said. “The lamps provided with kits are very specific to the individual gel-polish system, so when they buy polishes from different systems the lamps don’t work as well and they’re at much greater risk.”

The programme said some of the problems could be reactions to hydroxyethyl metacrylate and methyl methacrylate, chemicals commonly used in acrylic. Similar chemicals are also used in medical cement and so could cause problems later in life even if the allergic reaction goes away if the person needs joint replacement or dental work.

Williams called for “better labelling and more awareness among consumers that these are high risk products. "We feel that consumers doing these nails at home are at increased risk compared to having them done in salons,” he said. 

Source: Professional Beauty UK