Below is a transcribed version of The Nail Hub Podcast, Episode 99: Overexposure. To listen, click here.

Welcome to "The Nail Hub Podcast" powered by NAILS Magazine, where you'll find all the business advice, motivation, and nail industry information you need to be a successful nail professional. I'm Elizabeth Morris and thank you for joining me today.  

So in my last episode, I didn't have my trusted Yeti microphone turned on. Typical rookie mistake and these things do happen from time to time. There's a lot that goes into creating content especially when you're using all kinds of equipment, and sorry about that. So, the echoey thing that you heard last time, that's because I didn't have the right microphone turned on. So please forgive me for the lack of quality. But this, this is "The Nail Hub Podcast's" 99th episode. So this is a big one. This means that the next episode I do is going to be the 100th episode which I cannot believe that I've done 100 episodes. Now, if I was any other professional podcaster, I'd probably be on my 1000th episode because some of these guys out there do a podcast every single day, which I have no idea how people do that. It, literally, has to be your full-time job. But I really appreciate those of you guys who have listened since the beginning and also those of you who are listening now. I cannot believe that I have achieved 99 episodes, and soon to be 100, unbelievable. So I'm gonna come up with some really cool plans for the 100th episode to celebrate. I'm not sure what that's going to be. Maybe I'll get my buddies over at NAILS Magazine involved in that, but I definitely wanna make it something big and commemorative because 100 episodes is a big deal, and that's pretty dang cool.  

All right. So, let's get into what I wanna talk to about today. Well, I wanted to talk a little bit about overexposure, and this topic is something that we hear about a lot in our industry. And it also came up recently when I was on the Nail Those Profits at Sea cruise. I met a really nice new nail buddy on the cruise amongst a lot of new nail buddies on the cruise. It was very fun. But on one of our dinner occasions we got on the topic of overexposure, and I think there's a lot of situations that arise in our careers that we just don't realize all of the things that go into what we do and I think this can be quite an issue because there are a lot of things that we do as nail technicians that we just don't think about. There's also a lot of misinformation in our industry, and it doesn't necessarily happen on purpose but I think that it's interesting. Like, I feel like it's are interesting and so unique and that there's so much technology in our industry, there's so much chemistry in our industry, and yet the people who are using this technology and this chemistry don't really know anything about technology or chemistry. It's like the Clash of Titans. And so I wanted to talk a little bit about overexposure because I do think it is a serious, serious problem, not that I'm gonna be able to fix this in one nail podcast episode, but I do think it's something that we should talk about. And because I had this dinner conversation with this new nail buddy, it really made me think about, you know, a lot of the misinformation that's happening in the process of becoming more and more educated about nail products. I mean, I am not a chemist, obviously, but I do like researching things and I do like knowing more and more and more about what I use and why I use it and why it's beneficial and what are all the ins and outs of doing nails and what are all the things that play a key role in it. So, I'm always having these conversations with people.   

I've recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the Jim McConnell from Light Elegance, and the guy is just so... he's an open book. He's totally into sharing, he's a very, very nice person. So if you guys ever get the chance to chat up Jim McConnell from Light Elegance at one of the trade shows or at another event, I highly recommend you do so. The guy's very, very smart and he is just so open and sharing and wonderful, and not many people in our industry are as apt to be open like him and so I really recommend you guys chat him up and talk to him about products and he's very knowledgeable about nail products but he's not just biased towards, you know, Light Elegance per se. He actually will share with you the fundamentals of how nail products work and especially gel products, it's his forte.  

So, let's get into overexposure for a second. So, this conversation came up because this nail tech I was talking to is having allergic reactions. And for those of you that don't know what overexposure is, overexposure... I mean, it's in the word, which is you're basically getting exposed to something too much and what happens is basically your body starts to create this response to whatever this is. So whether it's a food, a chemical, even sun, you know, you can get overexposed to sun. Your body reacts to it and, most often, with nail technicians, we get what's called contact dermatitis, which is when your skin has an allergic reaction, you usually get really itchy, red, peeling skin, and maybe sometimes like little bumps on your fingers or on your fingertips or in your hands, sometimes your skin will split, sometimes your nail plate will start to lift up. And you know, your skin and your fingernails and your body is just reacting to whatever this is and basically what your body is saying is, "Get this stuff off of me." Right? "I don't like this whatever it is. It's not good for me. It's a foreign substance. I want it off." So your body starts to fight it and it can be kind of autoimmune in a sense which means that your body is fighting itself so it's causing the peeling and the redness and the whatever because it's fighting its own skin and causing these reactions. But it can also be from chemical reactions as well which are like chemical burns with acids and things like that.  

So, overexposure basically just as the overarching umbrella of situations that arise when you've been exposed too much, you know, to the chemicals that we use. And the chemicals that we use on a daily basis, they have been tested. So, in most cases, I would say, that the companies that manufacture the products that we deal with on a daily basis are not some evil company that are like, "Mwuah, I'm gonna poison the people who work with myself." No, I don't think that that's really their intention. Otherwise, we would all be six feet under and they'd have no nail techs to sell their products to. But there is the matter of the fact that we use chemicals in our jobs, and really, what we're using, for the most part, are plastics. We basically use different types of either UV cured plastics or plastics that are formed through mixing liquid and powder together. So, most of the stuff that we use, especially from professional manufactures, the stuff has been FDA tested, it's been tested by the manufacturer, it's been tested by numerous nail technicians before comes on the market, and although there are some heavy duty chemicals and stuff that we use, it's all been put at levels that are safe for people to use on a regular basis and it's also been manufactured in a way with instructions in a way that make it safe for people to use on a regular basis.   

So, obviously, we're not supposed to be eating our nail products because that's not safe, but we can put them on the nail plate safely and they're not gonna affect other parts of our body. And I do inherently believe this across the board. I mean, yes. Do I think there's some risk to what we do? Yeah, I think there is risk, but I think there's risk with everything. There's a risk every time. You know, I've talked about this on the podcast before. There's a risk every time I drink a Coca-Cola. You know, Coca-Cola is just corn syrup and carbonated water, and I'm sure a whole bunch of other stuff that cleans pennies, right? I mean, ask anyone who's anti-Coca-Cola and they'd be like, "Have you seen it clean a penny before?" And you're like, "Yeah, but I still wanna put it in my belly." Right? I love Coca-Cola. Same thing with caffeine or hair shampoo, sulfates, BPA, like all the stuff that's on our stuff. I mean, slowly, we're taking this stuff out, especially the stuff that is bad for us. But even back in the day, I mean, how many people died from talc, you know? And yes, people would say, "Oh, no. You know, it carries... you know, it causes cancer." Yeah, I'm sure there's lots of things that cause cancer, and I'm sure there's lots of things in my life and in your life that we do that aren't necessarily safe, and we probably eat, you know, chemicals and preservatives and pesticides and all kinds of... yeah, I get it, but at a certain level, I want to be able to live my life. I want to be able to enjoy my life. And so, do I wanna walk around being overly concerned about what I'm doing? No. Do I wanna walk around being overly unsafe about what I'm doing? No, not either. I do believe in moderation and I think that nail products are something that we can use on a regular basis, but we just have to be smart about what we're doing. Just like people can paint with paint all their lives, you know, people can do all kinds of things. You just have to know what you're dealing with, and you have to know what are the safety protocols to make sure that your user experience is the best that it possibly can be and to alleviate a lot of those risks that come with some of the stuff we work with.   

Almost anything, including water, can be dangerous in excess. I mean, there are people that have died from drinking too much water, right? So, anything in excess is bad. I think moderation is the way to go with almost everything, and yeah, there are some things that are just straight out of the gate bad for you, and no, I would not recommend doing them but I think for the most part, as nail technicians, what we're using on a daily basis has been tested, has been approved, has been checked for safety. It comes from companies that actually care about the products that are being used. They care about the safety of their customers, and again, at the end of the day, if they were a horrible, horrible evil company that just wanted to put all kinds of toxic things in their products, we would all be six feet under and they'd have no one to sell their products to. So, whether they like it or not, they need to have customers to sell to, and so I think most companies choose to create safe products because they want to stand by what they stand by, and they're proud of what they make and they want to make safe products that make our nails beautiful, and even those maybe evil companies that are out there, if they do exist, I don't really believe that they're able to get away with it for too long because there are consequences to that.   So, anywho, without going too deep into that, I think that the biggest disconnector, the biggest risk area arises when we, as operators, when we as nail technicians, start using a product without really knowing what we're doing, without understanding how it's supposed to be used, without understanding what's in it. And also, even if we do know how to use it, we start getting a little bit creative on our end without really understanding all the consequences. And I think that is something that we don't give enough weight. I think that, as artists, we tend to get a little bit outside of the parameters of what we should be doing. We tend to color outside the lines per se, and that's fine in most cases but there are some things that we need to take into consideration when it comes to overexposure because whether it's unintentional or intentional, we, as nail technicians, we need to take accountability for what we're doing with these products because the manufacturer... you know, any manufacturer, especially the responsible ones and the awesome ones that we often see at trade shows and all that stuff, these people are making products for a specific purpose to achieve a certain goal. And they can't test every single wackadoo idea that we could possibly come up with for how to use these products, right? They're basically saying, "Hey, this is supposed to be used for this purpose. We've tested it for that purpose. We've made sure it's safe for that purpose. Here's exactly how to use it for that purpose. Please use it for this purpose." Right? And then we, as nail techs, we grab it, more like, "You know what, I think I'm gonna use it for this instead." And then we wonder why we have bad experiences with it. It's like well, the manufacturer couldn't have possibly anticipated that you're gonna come up with some crazy idea to use their product in a different way. Sometimes it works out, especially if you have a lot of product knowledge, yeah, sure, you can get creative, but I think, if I'm talking in general terms, most of us have no clue about what we're doing and so it's best to err on the side of just following instructions, you know. And we can get creative inside the lines, but just don't get too crazy outside of it.  

So, why am I talking about all of this? Well, I have this conversation on the cruise with this nail colleague, and she was just saying you know, her skin is itchy. Every time she uses nail products, and she's like, "I started with this brand and then I switched to this brand and then I switched to this brand," and she's like, "My face will itch, my hands will itch, my arms will itch, my fingers will start to peel." And I was sitting there going, "Oh, my gosh." You know, like, this is crazy. So of course, everyone at the table is like, "Oh, you should use this brand instead," or "You should use this brand because this brand doesn't do that." And I'm thinking, "Okay, yeah, I mean, I can agree with you. On a certain extent, there are some brands where the formulas are different and it's less likely to cause an allergic reaction." But at the end of the day, I mean, the chemicals that are used in nail products are all very, very similar. Okay? At the end of the day, 99.9% of what we use is monomer-based, which monomers are just, you know... without using the improper terminology and getting crucified for using the incorrect terminology, basically, monomers are very small molecules. Okay? So, all of these monomers or these small molecules are kind of like free and when we polymerize them either through a chemical reaction between mixing two things together or through UV light exposure, those molecules come together and they start to form chains. So they bond with other molecules and they start to form chains, and depending on the chemicals that are used and the way that the product has been engineered, we either end up with long chains, short chains, crosslinks chains. And so, all of these different kind of...if you think about it like maybe it's like Legos, right? Okay, so each individual Lego is a monomer. And the way that we build those Legos together, we can attach them end to end and make long, long, long chains of them or we can make them into like towers or we can make them into like bridges like crosslinking structures, we can make them into just short chains, long chains, whatever. So if you think about a monomer like a lego, and all the legos are separate and then through a chemical reaction were able to attach all of those legos together to make one cohesive product, that's basically what polymerization is in layman's terms. Okay? So, any chemist out there listening to this, I apologize if I didn't quite explain that 100% accurately but in layman's terms, generally speaking, that's exactly what we're doing.  

And I think Legos are an apt analogy because Legos are also, basically, plastic and when we're talking about oligomers, okay, maybe monomers, a better analogy would be like the molecules that make up the lego and then a lego would be an oligomer. Oligomers are basically preformed little bigger molecules. So there may be two or three or four monomers hooked together already. And so, that's like, a little bundle of monomers is an oligomer.   

So, most gel products on the market are a mixture of monomers and oligomers depending on which percentage of which. Some of them are just monomer base, some of them have oligomers in them, some of them don't. At the end of the day, they are all kind of resin-based ingredients, resin being whether it's synthetic or resin coming from like... true resin comes from sap off of trees, that's where resin comes from. And I remember this from ballet because we used to use resin on our point shoes for traction and it's very kind of like you can dry it and crush it up and it's like... you can even like dissolve it in other chemicals to make really sticky, sticky glue stuff out of it. You can crush it up and just use it as a powder to create traction like on our ballet shoes, for example. That's basically organic resin, which is the kind that comes from tree sap. There's also a synthetic resin, which is more common in nail products these days, but basically, what we're doing is we're taking all of these monomers, we're linking them together to create a polymer, which is instead of one molecule, lots of different products together which is a polymer, and we end up with a form of plastic, right, an acrylate.  

So, acrylate polymers or acrylic or plastic, whatever you wanna call it, essentially, that's what we're creating with these nail products. We're creating a form of plastic. And again, based on the formula that's used to create this plastic, we can create a plastic that is strong. We can create a plastic that is flexible, shiny, not shiny, rigid, not rigid, brittle, not brittle, yellowing, not yellowing, whatever. Right? So with gels, basically, the thing that causes this chemical reaction happen are the photoinitiators and the gels. So the photoinitiators are, kind of, like the kickstart to these monomers coming together to form bonds. They start the chemical reaction. And these photoinitiators are sensitive to ultraviolet light. So this is kind of in very, very, very generic, boiled down, layman's terms. This is what we're doing.  

So, imagine those Legos, they're all scattered around, and then we bring them together. We attach all of them in the format that we want to create the type of structure we're looking for. Obviously, depending on the type of structure you create, your gonna get different properties out of it. Right? So like I said, shiny, flexible, strong, rigid, whatever you're looking for, right, and if you've ever tested carrying different gels and playing around with them, you'll see not all gels are the same, some of them are very rigid, some of them are very flexible, some of them are porous, which means there are spaces in between the molecules, which means that solvents can get in there and penetrate the products. So imagine you build your Legos but there's spots missing, kinda, like maybe you've played Jenga with your Legos and there are spots missing, that's where the acetone can get in and break the whole thing apart. Or maybe it's one solid, solid structure and nothing can get in there, and that would be your hard gels, the ones that can't be soaked up with acetone.  

So again, this is, kind of, like, an over, oversimplified way of describing this but what happens is when you've got these independent monomers, and the same thing goes for acrylic nails, liquid and powder, right, the monomer liquid is what we use with the polymer powder and the initiator is in the actual polymer powder. So, the catalyst actually causes the chemical reaction when the liquid and the powder meet. The chemical process gets initiated and then it starts to come together and form those bonds as well. The only real difference between liquid and powder and gel is that gel is already pre-mixed together. So instead of the chemical reaction starting when the two products touch, it's already kind of premixed together in a liquid form, and the thing that really kick-starts the chemical reaction are those photoinitiators so they get exposed to ultraviolet light. With liquid and powder enhancements, the chemical reaction happens when the two chemicals touch. So, that's why we keep the two things separate, and it becomes important when you talk about bead ratio and all of that, how wet the bead is, how dry the bead is, because we wanna make sure that we're mixing the right amount of the ingredients together to get the ideal plastic per se or acrylic out of the two products being mixed together.   So, all of those properties like we talked about, about strength, flexibility, shine, rigidity, there's less of a deviation, I would say, on those types of properties. Most liquid and powder enhancements are pretty much the same when it comes to rigidity, flexibility, strength, all of that. But if you're messing around with your bead ratio and you don't have it perfect, you definitely can make a nail that's too flexible or too rigid or too brittle or too dry, you know, or the chemical process can't complete because there's not enough monomer for how much polymer you use, stuff like that.  

So, with this chemical reaction and these monomers that we're talking about, these monomers, these small molecules that make up this product, when the product is still in this individual lego or individual molecule format, these molecules, these chemical molecules can actually absorb into our skin. And this is where we start to have allergic reactions because it can penetrate our skin. It can affect our bodies and our body can say, "Hey, what the heck is this thing? Get it out." And pretty soon your body starts to form an allergic reaction to it because your body's fighting whatever this foreign substance is.  

So I was talking with this nail tech on this cruise and I was asking her like, "Well, do you do, you know... I know you switch products a lot, I know you're still having the allergic reaction, and it is one of those things where, oftentimes, once you have an allergic reaction in nail products, it never really goes away because, typically, what happens is the nail tech is doing the same thing over and over again without realizing it, and so your auto immune response to the foreign substance just keeps upping the anti because you keep exposing yourself to the product and your body is like, "Hey, I told you I don't like this stuff. Get it off." And so, every time you get exposed to it, the reaction gets worse. And there's a lot of things that we do as nail techs that we don't think about. So, I started bringing up to her some of the things that I know that I started to notice I did that I didn't go in the beginning but over time, after I started to learn about the chemicals that go into our nail products, I was like, "Oh, my gosh." Like, "What if I did this and what if I did that." And even when I was sitting down with Celine and we're doing Swarovski crystal training so that she could become a Swarovski crystal educator, we also started talking about the subject, and it's really interesting because once you start thinking in this mindset, you start to realize how many things can affect overexposure.  

So, one of the biggest things I noticed that a lot of nail techs do, and I see this all the time in classes, whether it's the teacher or fellow colleagues or at trade shows, whatever it is, wiping off your brush using your hand. I've seen so many nail techs like, squeegee off gel or like reshape their brush whether they're a liquid and powder artists or they're a gel artist, they will touch the uncured product. They'll touch their brushes with their bare hands. So, you're getting all of those chemicals on your hand. It's unpolymerized, which means it hasn't formed into a plastic yet which means that those individual molecules can actually get inside your skin and can cause an allergic reaction. And so, having your bare skin touch uncured product, whether it's unpolymerized liquid and power or unpolymerized gel, you're asking for problems.   

Some other examples are using your bare hand or your nails as a palette. You know, I see people wiping off their brushes on the back of their hand or they're wiping on their nail plate and it's like getting on their skin, stuff like that. Putting brushes in your mouth, cleaning around your client's nails with your own nails or even if you're doing your own nails, cleaning around your nails with your own fingers or nails, again, you're getting uncured product on your own skin, on your fingernails. Touching the product to the skin during application. So, a lot of times, this happens when the gel floods into the cuticle area or monomer on an acrylic brush is kind of getting slapped all around on the skin, especially with the new trend of using huge acrylic brushes, I mean, you're talking about a ton of monomer in order to be able to do that one bead technique. And there are a lot of videos I see, the person is getting monomer all over at the skin, like, all over it. You're not supposed to touch the skin at all. And very, very skilled acrylic technicians do not touch the skin. Same thing goes for gel. If you're touching the skin with the gel, you're getting uncured product on the skin.   

Another thing I see a lot of is putting product directly on the skin on purpose. Like, if someone rips off their nail or they have a broken toenail. Putting product on someone's skin means you're putting uncured product on their skin and then polymerizing it on top of their skin. So you no longer have that protective layer of the nail plate. You're actually touching their skin with the uncured product. I think that that is a big issue that has not been resolved yet. And then some of the other more kind of haphazard ones are, I don't know about you, but when I used to work full time in the salon, I am right handed so I used to put my gel brushes down, my gel pot, stuff like that, I put them on the right hand side of my table and I'd have the lids open and I'd be doing nail or something. And then I would go to put my arm down on my table to rest my arm for a second and I have accidentally get my arm on the pot of gel, and I go home with these little rings of different colors, whether I touched the lid or I touched the jar. I'd go home without realizing it, but I go home with colored circles going down my arm from randomly touching my gel jars with my arm. Or maybe I've put my arm in my brushes accidentally, so I get like gel on my arm from my brushes. It happens a lot. So that's definitely an accidental way of doing it. Or maybe if you're a liquid and powder nail tech, you're putting your elbow down where you put your wipe for your brush. So, when every time you wipe the excess monomer off your brush or your wipe being product off your brush, you're actually putting your arm down on the same spot as where that monomer is and you're getting it all over your arm. And so, it's on your skin, it absorbs into your body, and your body starts to form this autoimmune response to it and you start to get an allergic reaction.   

Also, another thing that I see a lot of people doing is like they'll clean their jars, or this happens to me a lot, where no matter how hard you try to pack things properly, I've often ordered products where they arrive and they're leaking, right? It's like, I don't know what USPS did or UPS. They like kicked it off a cliff or something like that, but the box arrives and my gel is broken on the inside and I'm like, "Really, what did you do with this? You ran over it? I don't get it." And so, I have to clean up the products inside. Most of them can usually just be wiped down with some alcohol and save the rest of the box of stuff, but I do see a lot of nail techs is doing this where they'll clean their jars or their bottles without wearing gloves. And so, they're touching all these uncured products with their bare hands again. Another inadvertent way is using one tiny wipe for all 10 nails. So imagine, if you could see it that inhibition layer so that, you know, to talk about chemicals again, the sticky layer on gel or even the sticky layer on odorless or low-odor acrylic is basically an oxygen inhibition layer. It basically means that any of the product that is exposed to oxygen during polymerization, it doesn't polymerize. Oxygen basically prevents the product from polymerizing.  

Now, there are some products that are formulated specifically not to have a tacky layer. So tack-free stuff doesn't have this oxygen inhibition layer, but most products, most gel products do have a sticky layer on them. Well, that sticky layer isn't like a magical sticky layer, it's actually uncured product. It's product that wasn't able to fully polymerize or fully turn into plastic because it was exposed to oxygen at the time. So even with a gel that does get an inhibition layer, if you were to wrap it with Saran wrap, if you were to cover it and it was not exposed to oxygen, you will not get a sticky layer because none of the gel was exposed to oxygen while it was curing.  

So, I see a lot of techs who instead of pretending that that inhibition layer is red polish, right. I often tell newbie nail techs, "Okay, pretend that that sticky layer is horrible, horrible red polish and you don't wanna let it touch the skin. Well, what would you do? Well, you would start with the pinky first of all because the pinky has the least amount of surface area and you're gonna get less of it on your wipe, and you'd start with the pinky and then you'd move to the thumb, right, because then, you wouldn't be getting that red polish all over the place. Same idea goes for at the inhibition layer. That sticky layer on the gel, we don't wanna get in on the skin. It's uncured gel, so we want to be very cautious of how're removing it. Make sure it doesn't touch the skin, and if you're using one tiny wipe for all 10 nails, it's very likely that even though you're twisting and turning and flipping and whatever, that that wipe now has uncured gel all over it and by the time you get to the seventh finger, you've got uncured gel all over the wipe, you're touching it with your own hands and you're also wiping it on your client or on yourself. So, that is a very serious thing to take into consideration.  

Constant contact with the drying agents. I mean, even too much lotion can be a bad thing. Right? Too much scrub can be a bad thing if you're working in the salon. I don't know about you, but I remember, in the beginning, I didn't wear gloves when I was doing people's manicures with the scrub and my hands turned into hamburger meat because there is such a thing as too much exfoliation. So I learned my lesson and started wearing gloves very early on, but soaps, acetone, isopropyl alcohol, even cuticle removers, some of the heavy duty ones, sanitizing agents, I mean, all of those things, disinfectants, bleach, like whatever, the stuff you're using for your laundry. I mean, there's a lot of heavy duty things that we use that can cause a lot of dryness in our skin, especially in our hands, and what that dryness does is it causes little micro-fissures in our skin, like little splits in our skin, especially if you're very prone to dry skin, you can actually cause even more dryness and more of those pits in your skin, more of those little kind of crevices in your skin and splits. And then that leads to even more of a chance for penetration of other chemicals. So, if you have split fingers from dryness and you go and you accidentally touched a gel, it's even more likely that that's absorbing into your skin because you've got those splits in your skin, to begin with. So I think we don't take that into consideration as much as we should. I mean, we use a ton of acetone and isopropyl alcohol on a daily basis, and I don't think many of you are taking in a consideration that you should be wearing gloves when you're doing stuff like that.  

And then also, you know, last but not least is not using a dust extractor. I know a ton of nail techs who are just covered in dust from head to toe all day long. Not only does that mean that you're breathing it in and eating it by accident, you're actually ingesting it, because even if you breathe it in, some of it can go into your lungs and some of it you can also ingest, which means it's actually getting into your stomach and to your digestive system, so you're eating plastic. You're breathing in plastic, and if it's not fully polymerized products, some products can actually take a long time to fully polymerize or continue to polymerize indefinitely. And most the time, when we're talking about products that polymerize, after curing... like, let's say you cure the gel for 30 seconds, right? It will continue to cure after the 30 seconds for a certain amount of time, but the reason why we're curing it to 30 seconds is because that's the initial polymerization that we're looking for, and it's all been formulated and tested to get to that level. So, that's something that you guys probably aren't thinking about.  

Acrylic like liquid and powder can actually continue to polymerize for a month or more, so it's actually continuing to harden on the nail. And now, you get the initial hardening that you need for it to be safe and to be able to get the results you're looking for per the manufacturer, but the product is actually continuing to have a slight chemical reaction on the nail for a long period of time. So it's continuing to get more hard, more brittle. And that's also why you'll see certain products over time, they start to yellow more or they start to get more brittle or you start to see it like, "Oh, it's kind of getting like old." Like, it seems like it's getting crumbly or when you go to like backfill it, it's, you know, it's not as fresh feeling as it used to feel. That's because the product is continuing to polymerize. And add to that the fact that it's getting exposed to day to day life wear and tear, other chemicals out there, all kinds of things that we use. But, if you're not using some kind of dust extractor, you're basically being covered in this product that is mid polymerization. Right? So, like I said, we are reaching the initial polymerization that we're looking for by allowing the product to set for a certain amount of time or for curing it for a certain amount of time and removing the uncured product. But if you're filing it, you actually aren't filing that kind of, I don't wanna call it volatile, but it is. It's in the process of hardening and you're getting it all over your skin. So again, they can be the presence of those small molecules that can penetrate into your skin and you definitely don't wanna be breathing it in or eating it regardless. And so, you know, a lot of techs don't think about that. Or they don't wanna invest in some type of professional dust or fume extractor because it's expensive, and I get it. There are some beautiful, amazing dust extractors on the market that cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars and they are ridiculously expensive, but it is something that serves a very important purpose, and so I think that these are all things we don't take into consideration.  

So going back to that, I basically brought up all these ideas with this nail tech and she was like, "Oh, you're right. I never thought about that because I was talking to her, and I was like, 'Well." She's like, "Yeah, well I switched products and then I keep having this allergic reaction." I'm thinking, "Well, I saw you working with that new product today, and I did notice that you touched your brush with your bare hands. So even if you switched product lines, you're still exposing yourself to the product, right? So if you're using your bare hand to... even if you're using your bare hand to pull a piece of fuzz out of the tip of your brush, you're still touching uncured gel." I mean I don't care how careful you are, there's a lot of silly things that we do as nail techs and we're not realizing like, "Wow, we actually are touching a lot of uncured products." And if you are touching a lot of uncured products on a very regular basis and you just happen to be someone who is... you know, maybe you're prone to allergic reactions or maybe, for whatever reason, your body chemistry just does not like the products that you're using, you're gonna be more likely to get an allergic reaction from those products. So, those types of simple things that we do can be a huge culprit when it comes to causing overexposure in us and it can also cause overexposure in our clients. Like I said, once someone has an allergic reaction to nail products, it's very likely they're gonna have a reaction to all nail products because all nail products are very similar. I mean, the only exemption to that being like nail polish because nail polish doesn't have monomers in it, but not those types, like the same type of ethyl methacrylate or all of that, but we want to take into consideration that... think about it from a perspective of once you're allergic to it, it's gonna be very difficult to find something you're not allergic to. And again, there are some caveats to that. There are some exceptions to that rule, but for the most part, it is an unfortunate event where nail techs to do have overexposure issues. It can take a long time to recover from them. And it can lead to all kinds of things, not just contact dermatitis but migraines, joint pain, asthma, other respiratory issues, and I just think that we're not taking enough of this stuff into consideration.  

And I know you guys have probably heard about this in a lot of other places, but I wanted to reiterate it because I do think that the more I become educated about my career and the more I get invested in product knowledge, the more I started to realize like, "Wow, I used to do a lot of these things." And even while I'm working at home, I'll be like, "Oh, my gosh. I just touched that. What am I doing?" You know what I mean? So, I do just want you guys to kind of have that in the back of your mind, not like as a freak out type of scenario but just take note of some of the things you might be doing, and I think that there are some very easy ways that we can help prevent the possibility of overexposure. 

So, the other big thing that we always talk about, and I've talked about this in very, very early episodes of my podcast because there's also the issue of curing. And again, I tend to talk a lot about gel because gel is what I know, and acrylic also. I talked about bead ratio. Bead ratio can also lead to a non-ideal product, finished product. Right? So, you basically end up with too wide of a bead. It means that there's too much monomer and not enough polymer to go around. And you end up with an overly wet, overly rubbery nail. If there's too much powder, then you're gonna end up with a very brittle, powdery, unbonded nail, and it's gonna act as such. With gel, gels rely fully, basically, most gels rely fully on UV light to cure.  

Now, there are some hybrids on the market, and you may have heard the term hybrid before. Hybrid, essentially, is basically, a mix between a gel, resin, and a lacquer, right, a varnish. So, a polish-type ingredient that air dries. So, we've got air drying chemicals and we've also caught chemicals that need ultraviolet light to cure, and one is suspended inside of the other, and so, you don't need as much ultraviolet light to cure a hybrid gel as you do a full gel because there are some air drying agents in it.  

A good way to tell whether or not you've got hybrid products is leave a little dollop of your suspected hybrid product out in the air but put it in a dark place, like in a drawer, where it's not exposed to light of any kind. And if it dries up on the pallet or on the nail form backing or whatever you wanna put it on, if it dries up or gets stickier over time, it means that you've got air drying chemicals in your gel. So, that is a hybrid. And usually, hybrids do smell a little bit more like nail polish because they are more of a lacquer. They are more of a varnish-type product, so they do smell more like a nail polish than they do a gel. Now, that's not to say that every product is like that, but a good way to test is to smell it and number two is to do the dry test, which is see if it does dry out or get sticky over time even when it's not exposed to light.  

So, the issue of lamps arises, and I know how annoying this is because I have heard this a million times, which is, unfortunately, in our industry, there is a situation where... Okay, so like I was talking earlier about how there's this Clash of Titans, right, which is we've got nail technicians who are using chemicals, technology, all of these things to create nails, but then, we've also got the manufacturers who are creating all these things and nail techs aren't really well educated about the products that they're using, and not necessarily because it's their fault, it's just because there isn't a lot of education about the fundamentals of nail products, and I can attest to that. I've been around in this industry for five years, and it's only been through sheer digging and digging and digging and asking a bazillion questions that I've even come to scratch the surface. So I think part of it is that, in a way, I think that a lot of people in our industry like to keep things oversimplified. They like to kind of come at it from the perspective of just don't do it. Right? So, I'm gonna tell you, because I know better than you, you know, I've used the analogy of the stove is hot, don't touch it. You're gonna burn yourself. It's very similar to that, which is yes, at the end of the day, the intention is right which is save nail techs from themselves, don't let them hurt themselves, don't let them hurt others, give them kind of black and white rules to live by because it's simple and it's easy. Sure, I get that. But at the end of the day, you're not really explaining why. Why wouldn't you want to do that? Why doesn't that work? How does this come together? How does this function? What are the dangers? What are the pros? What are the cons? Where all the things that go into it?   

There's not a lot of education and it's not been until very recently that I've started to see some manufacturers starting to share this knowledge, and I wanna encourage manufacturers to do that because I mean, yes, I think some manufacturers want to oversimplify just for the sake of not overwhelming nail technicians with information. I think also some manufacturers don't want to tell nail technicians all of this information because, at the end of the day, they don't want people to know what we're doing. I think they like the whole magical marketing aspect. They don't want people to know that at the end of the day, it's cyanoacrylate or it's ethel methacrylate or it's plastic or it's... you know, what is a monomer? What is an oligomer? What is a resin? What is a photoinitiator? I mean, a lot of companies, I think, in a certain way, maybe subconsciously feel threatened by people knowing what that stuff is, and they think that maybe the magic will be lost if people know that at the end of the day we're putting plastic on people's nails. No, I don't think it loses the magic at all because at the end of the day where the magic exists is the in what we make with it. Right? It's like acrylic paint in and of itself is not magical, but what an artist can make with acrylic paint is magical, and you just have to know what your medium is, and you have to know everything about it. And once you have the product knowledge, you're able to create the most amazing things ever. And that's really where the true magic behind artists exist is not in the product that they're using but in the artistry that they create. And so, I really wanna encourage any manufacturers who happen to listen to my podcast to please continue to teach nail technicians about the fundamentals of nails because I think that the more product knowledge we have, the smarter we become as an industry, and even if there is maybe a competitive threat that gets caused by nail technicians having too much information, I think that that competition is important to continuing to improve and elevate the industry because if manufacturers know that we know what they're doing, it means that they're constantly having to up the anti and I like that. I think that a little bit of healthy competition is important.  

So anyway, going back to that, I think that there's not a lot of information about what all of this is, and I know it is very difficult to learn because even if you were to Google... Trust me, go and Google resin, right, and you'll go down a rabbit hole of what resin is, synthetic resin, organic resin, whatever it is, and again, at the end of the day, all things were organic because it's all made up of carbon, but I won't go into that. And polymerization, read about polymerization, read about photoinitiators, read about light cured epoxies, and there's all kinds of things, the polyurethane, right? So, a lot of these things that we look into, you start to kind of get a little bit of an idea, you know, especially when we're talking about visible light spectrum. I remember when I first started as a nail tech and I used to see all these lamps being like 405 nanometer, and I'm like, "Okay. What?" And then once I started to realize what they meant, because I mean, I know what the visible light spectrum is but I had no idea that they were referring to that and I had no idea what the relationship was between that and the product, you know, things started to kind of come together and make sense. Right? And after some awesome conversations with different people, I've been able to put together a pretty good understanding of what's going on every time I do nails, and what happens when I do this and that and what are the consequences of doing certain things, what are the advantages of doing certain things, why we do certain things, and also, what I wanna look for in a product. I think that educating nail technicians actually makes for very well-educated customers, and I think that's important because that means that nail techs are gonna be able to choose products for themselves that work for them, that you're able to choose things based on what you like, just like we all have preferences about the type of shampoo that we wanna use, put the makeup that we wanna wear. We're all pretty savvy about fabrics, you know, like what kind of fabrics we like, why we choose leather or why we choose pleather, why we like cotton versus why we like polyester. I mean, there's all kinds of things that I feel like we're pretty knowledgeable about as human beings, what kind of foods we like to eat, why we stay away from things, why we have to do certain things in moderation. But I feel like when it comes to nail products, there is this huge disconnect in knowledge. Some of it, I think, is because nail techs, number one, just aren't inherently interested in chemistry, they're more interested in what they can create. But I think it also is because there isn't a lot of education out there. And same thing goes for business. I mean, when I teach business classes, there are a lot of people who want to learn more about business. But do I get the same turnout as if I had taught a nail art class? No, of course not, because it's not people's nature. It's not what people are inherently desiring. They don't feel comfortable with business, and so, it is a little bit harder to get people to come to those types of classes and to expand their horizons, but that doesn't mean that people don't want to know about business, it just means that it's a little bit outside of their comfort zone. And I feel like chemistry is the same.  

So when we talk about the lamp situation, it is annoying because going back to my whole statement about the whole don't touch it, it's hot, that's basically what this whole lamp to debacle has come down to, which is instead of manufacturers explaining thoroughly why lamps can't be used across the board, you know, one lamp can't be cured for all systems, they basically just say like, "Use the lamp that goes with your system." And they don't really explain why, and I think that's annoying. But again, in a certain capacity, I understand why they're approaching it from that angle.   So, why can't we use one lamp? Well, not all gels are formulated the same. So if we talk again about monomers, oligomers, you know, the different types of chemicals that are in there, the type of photoinitiators that are needed to cure, the fact that some gels are hybrids which means they partially air dry as well as cure, the fact that some gels are 100% gel so they need to fully polymerize just through the exposure of ultraviolet light. And again, with the cost of these different ingredients, not all companies are willing to spend the same amount of money on formulating their products, so they have to have different lamps to be able to circumvent that. So for example, if you have less photoinitiators in a product, it means that each photoinitiator has to do more work in the product, and so you need more light exposure. If you have certain photoinitiators in a product, it might yellow because of a certain lamp. Maybe there's too much light exposure and the photoinitiators can yellow because there are so many or they get so charged up by the type of light that's being used that they do start to kind of yellow inside of the product. You can also over cure the gel which means you create such an "over polymerization" which means you've cured the product passed the desired level and that means that you're gonna get premature brittleness, you could get breakage over time, you could get discoloration, you know, there's definitely a sense of over-curing. But I think the biggest issue when it comes to lamps isn't the whole, you know, is it gonna yellow, is it gonna discolor, is it gonna be more brittle than you wanted. I think the real issue is the under-curing of products. And this usually happens when people go around professional lamps and they go, "You know what, I just wanna buy the cheapest lamp that I can get away with because why invest a ton of money in one lamp, right?"   

And so, a lot of people also see lamps that look exactly like the manufactured lamp. I know I've seen this a lot where you see companies that have very, very similar looking lamps. And to be honest, most of lamps do come from one place. They usually come from Taiwan, and there are only a few companies that make ultraviolet lamps for the nail industry. It's just the God's honest truth, not many manufacturers, if any manufacturers make their own ultraviolet lamps, but that doesn't mean that the companies don't actually put time into customizing those lamps. So, it's kind of like having five different brands of car being manufactured in the same factory. Yes, that's the case with a lot of car manufacturers. You know, the same factory that makes Range Rovers also makes Ford Tauruses. So, you can have a very expensive car come out of the same factory as a very inexpensive car. But, that doesn't mean that the two things operate the same way or that you get the same quality out of them. So that's very true with nail lamps which is, yes, you may have one, two, or three factories being the source for all nail lamps in the world but that doesn't mean that all nail lamps are created equal. And just because something looks exactly the same doesn't mean it operates exactly the same. There's a lot of things that go into it.   

There's a lot of factors that go into lamps, like the placement of the LEDs, and I think that lamps got really complicated when we went to LED technology. LED meaning, light emitting diode, which is the type of bulb that's used. When we switched from CFL, which are the tube type bulbs, the compact fluorescent lights, they're very similar kind of to the ones that you put in your laundry room, the big tubes, but they're small and we put them in our nail lamp. So, when we switched from compact fluorescent lights to light emitting diodes, things got really complicated because you took kind of a standard technology that was tried and true, and now, you've got all these variables that go into light emitting diodes. So light emitting diodes, again, are those little, little... they're like little light bulbs basically, except they're completely manufactured differently, but that's essentially what they are. So LED isn't the type of light, it's actually the type of light bulb, and CFL is actually the true type of UV bulb that we all refer to when we talked about UV lamps, it's actually CFL. So, CFL and LED are really the two types, both lamps emit ultraviolet light or near ultraviolet light. But it's a different type of light. It's a different range of light.   

So, like I said, we went from this standard tried and true technology without very much variation, but there were some downsides. Curing time was a lot longer. The bulbs did wear out over time so you ended up getting less and less curing as the bulbs aged until they finally went kaput, and those were some of the main factors. With LED, the light is able to penetrate deeper into the product. It's a more focused type of light. So, the gels cure faster. We're able to get better curing because the light is able to penetrate better even into colored gels, whereas CFL had a problem with that in certain cases. And we're also able to customize the light emitting diodes. So now, you have lamps where you've got two different types of light being emitted through the same lens. So, in each LED, you've got two different types of light, the UV per se, you know, "UV light," and also the LED compatible light. So you got the full wavelength of light being emitted. Some lamps, they alternate, one LED emits the lower end of the spectrum and one, the higher end of the spectrum. The placement of the LEDs plays a big role. How many LEDs there are inside of the lamp, and also, how much power the lamp actually uses and how much light is emitted. Lenses on the actual LEDs themselves play a key role, and if you've ever seen lamps where there are like lots of little tiny bubbles on the top of the lamp, those aren't actually as powerful as the more disk-shaped ones or the little flat ones. So there's a ton of variables when it comes to LED style UV lamps. And so, as we move towards this, it did start to become more complicated when it came to one lamp to cure them all, because in most situations, people are opting for a cheaper lamp, which means you're getting a lamp off of eBay or AliExpress that looks exactly like the manufacturer's lamp, except it doesn't have any of the customizations that the manufacturer has put in place, which means that it is gonna be a third of the cost because none of those customizations exist, and you're gonna be trying to cure the same products with that other lamp. And so, you're ending up with uncured product or semi-cured product, and again, we're going back to the overexposure issue which is uncured product means monomers that can penetrate into the skin and cause allergic reactions. And so, under cured product is definitely a big problem, and that's why in general, you can't really use one lamp for everything because in most cases, you're gonna opt for a cheaper lamp and you're gonna try and cure all your products, and it's not gonna cure everything exactly as it should.  

Now, do I really think that it's going to be as big of an issue as touching liquid gel with your bare hands? No, I don't think it is as big of an issue but I do know that for the sake of just peace of mind in the salon, it's not worth it to risk it. I mean, number one, even if nothing allergic happened with your clients or with yourself, that's one thing, but who wants to have reworks coming back? I mean, uncured gel doesn't just mean you can get an allergic reaction, it also means it can peel, bubble, be cured on top but not underneath. The nails can break prematurely. They can be too flexible. You know, there's all kinds of issues that come when the product isn't polymerized to the level it's supposed to be, and that just causes reworks which is an expense. So all that money you thought you were saving on buying a nice lamp goes into reworks and other issues that deal within the salon.  

So yeah, you can overcure products, but I think that that's less of an issue. I think the under curing is more of the issue. And I think that the quick and easy solution, at the end of the day, is try and stick with one line of products. Okay? I have actually been teaching this a lot lately because even financially it makes sense. I know that there are lots of fun things out there that we'd love to try and every time I go to a show I'm like, "Oh, my God, that's so cool. I have to have it." Right? But at the end of the day, I started thinking like, "Am I actually gonna make money off of that thing and do I have everything set up to be able to incorporate that product into my regime?" A lot of the times, the answer is no. Even though it's awesome, do I really need that? No, probably not, and it's probably just gonna add more expense than it does revenue generation. So, if you can try, at all costs, to stick with one line of products, choose wisely because I think that if you're gonna get stuck with one line of products, you wanna be stuck with one that you're really happy with. But it's so much easier, from the perspective of not having to worry about all of this undercuring, overexposure issues, but it's also super cost effective because you're getting all of your stuff from one place, you're gonna be able to avoid client fixes, potential allergies, trouble shooting, and the manufacturer's also gonna back you up because if they know that you're using the full complete system and you call them up and you say, "Hey, I'm having this issue with your product," they're gonna be more apt to actually help you with it because they're gonna be like, "Oh, you know what, all of those things should work together. Let's figure out why it's not." If you will call them up and you're like, "Okay, I'm using this brand's base coat, this brand's color, and this brand's top coat, and I'm using this brand's light," they're gonna be like, "Um, there's no way for us to troubleshoot that because you're talking about all these different variables that we'll never be able to test fully."  

Now, the second option outside of sticking with one line of products is buying a lamp that is so high quality that it could cure all of your stuff. The challenge with this is you have to have a ton of product knowledge to figure this out, and no manufacturer is gonna back you up if you are mixing and matching. So if I buy the nicest, awesomest UV LED model lamp on the planet that cures everything, or at least I think it is, and I'm having issues, there's no way that they're gonna back me up if I call them to troubleshoot something because they're gonna go, "You're mixing and matching. I can't help you." But, for those of you that are into learning more about products, yes, there are some ways that you can figure out whether or not a lamp is curing a certain products. You can do tensile strength test which is basically putting the product under pressure to see if it's actually it resulting in the finished product that you're looking for in the way that it's supposed to work. You can also look at painting it on a form and see if it cures all the way through. Again, you're not gonna be able to see if it's fully, fully polymerized to the level it's supposed to be as far as tensile strength, but you can make sure that at least there's no uncured product on the fingernail. There are a lot of things here. But again, I think in most people situations, honestly, which one is easier, having to go through all this testing and risk on your own just because you wanted to be able to own one lamp, or actually just stick with one thing and make your life simple? And again, I know that that's not the answer that you want to hear, but it is the easiest answer and it is the most tried and true answer. And I do think that there is something to be said for matching yourself with a product line that works for you because if you know it works, then you can take it off of your to-do list, you can take it off of the things you have to think about while you're working. There's nothing worse than having to troubleshoot on a client when you mixed five different things together and trying to figure out where things went wrong. And our excitement gets the better of us, we ended doing our artsy side which is, "Yeah, a little dab of this, a little dab of that," and at the end, we have no idea what we've created, we have no idea how it's gonna wear on the nail, and our paying client isn't gonna be happy with us when they come back with issues, and God forbid, they actually have a serious allergic reaction to it. That would be really bad.   The other factor is that not many insurance companies will actually back you up if you're dabbling like that either. If you're not following the manufacturer's instructions for your stuff, you can also run the risk of your liability insurance not covering you, and that is a serious issue, especially if your customer does have an adverse reaction. So, there are a lot of things to this. And so, I had this conversation with this nail tech and I was talking to her about, you know, are you doing any of these things? You know, are you mixing and matching? Are you messing with different lamps? I mean, there's a lot of things that I can go to. And even like how often you're doing your own nails. Right? If you're doing your own nails, as a nail tech, too often, you can actually be overexposing yourself just by the sheer amount of times that you're doing your own nails. You know, I don't like to do people's nails more than once every week and a half, at the very, very minimum because if they're doing their nails every single week, that means that every seven days, they're getting exposed to those products, and even if I'm super, super, super careful, they're still getting exposed to those things over and over and over again and I do think that that does lead to the potential for those overexposure issues.  

So, I want you guys to think about this. Think about the things we talked about the common ways that you can actually cause overexposure, some of the risks of dealing with these kind of things, and I wanted you guys to just, food for thought, think about whether or not you're doing some of those things, like, touching your brushes or putting stuff in your mouth or overexposing yourself to dust or other chemicals that are causing these issues. Take care with what you're doing. Attention to detail in this area is very, very important. Product knowledge and also research in what you're using can be the difference between a very, very happy nail career and also, you know, conversely, someone who is suffering from overexposure on a regular basis. And like I said, yes, there are some brands out there that, because of their formulations, are less likely to cause allergic reactions but, at the end of the day, we're talking about very, very similar chemicals, a lot of chemicals that are across the board in all gel formulas. And usually, you know, not to blanket everybody, but usually, once you do form an allergic reaction to one nail product, you're very likely to have the allergic reaction with others, not 100%, but definitely the case in a lot of situations I've seen. It's very, very difficult to come back from overexposure, so I would really recommend you guys to try your best to prevent it. Prevent it for yourself. Prevent it for your clients, and really take note of what you're doing because I know just out of sheer necessity and busyness, we can create some really, really bad habits in the salon while we're working. I know exactly how that is. You know, whether you're sticking brushes in your hair because you need a place to quickly store them or you're putting stuff in your mouth or you're pinching your brushes with your fingers, I mean, there's a lot of things that we do without thinking about it that can cause some major problems. Okay? So I want you guys to think about that.  

In the meantime, I will be putting together some awesome ideas for our 100th episode on "The Nail Hub Podcast". I am so excited. So, I need to come up, again, like I said, I have no idea what I should do. Maybe you guys should tell me what I should do. If you guys want, as always, right below this podcast on YouTube, put some notes down for me. Tell me what I should do for the 100th episode. I think some suggestions would be really cool. Or hit me up on social media. I'm on Instagram, @thenailhub, or you guys can email me at Tell me what you guys think I should do for the 100th episode. Maybe I'll come up with some cool giveaway or I don't know what I'll do. I'm definitely gonna contact NAILS Magazine and see if they wanna be a part of this because I think that would be awesome sauce. But I am super excited to celebrate the 100th episode. It might take me a week or two to get that put together because it is a little bit more special. Hope you guys have an amazing week in the meantime and I hope this episode helps you guys think about how to prevent overexposure for yourselves and your clients, and I will be in touch again soon. All right? Bye, guys.  

This is Elizabeth Morris singing out from The Nail Hub. This podcast is sponsored by NAILS Magazine, the professional nail industry's leading publication. Have a suggestion, question, or concern? Send me an email at And don't forget to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, @thenailhub, and check out The Nail Hub YouTube channel for more episodes and tutorials.  

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