Expert Opinion: Nail techs often suffer from skin or respiratory allergies to nail products; these allergies differ from hypersensitivities, as they develop over time rather than being immediate. According to Chris Adigun, M.D., and member of Dermelect’s board of advisors, nail techs are especially at risk. “Interestingly, one of the ways our skin immune system works is that we actually develop allergies to products we are more frequently exposed to and use regularly. This gives our immune system time to ‘learn’ these products, and then cause symptoms. This is a common complaint from nail techs and can be occupationally very difficult.”
It’s important to be aware of allergies as soon as they develop. “Symptoms of ACD (allergic contact dermatitis) caused by nail products usually occur days after exposure,” explains Dana Stern, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center.” Symptoms may show up as redness and swelling, blisters, crusting, lifted nails, fingertip tenderness, and/or eyelid, mouth, or neck rash.”
Components of all types of nail products can cause ACD, says Adigun. The most common of these is tosylamide/formaldehyde resin, which is found in nail lacquers and nail hardeners. “This chemical is notorious for inducing ACD in those exposed to it,” Addigan says. “And symptoms can arise after the tech comes into contact with either wet or dry enamel.”
According to Adigun, other common products found in the salon that contain potentially allergenic chemicals are nail lacquers and hardeners (formaldehyde and nickel) UV-cured traditional nail gels and shellacs (uncured methacrylate or acrylate oligomers and monomers), acrylic nails and primers (methyl methacrylate monomer [MMA]), and cuticle removers. Additionally, some chemicals/filings, such as dust from acrylics and fumes from glues, can cause respiratory allergies and asthma, especially if the salon has poor ventilation. Tips for preventing and treating salon allergies:
> Avoid any nail product coming into contact with your skin, and wash your hands thoroughly prior to touching your face or eye area.
> Avoid any contact with the filings or dusts of incompletely cured monomers (such as those in gels/shellacs). To avoid exposure to filings/dusts, wearing a mask is recommended.
> Make sure your salon has adequate ventilation to protect from these. If possible, work near an open window or door.
> If you suddenly develop allergic symptoms, seek medical attention. If you wear enhancements, do not soak them off until you have seen a dermatologist to calm the reaction.
> If allergic symptoms do not dissipate after taking all precautions, you may need to consider promoting your business as all-natural/no acrylics. There are also five-free and phthalate-free products available that allow nail techs to be able to continue to use high-performance nail products without the worry of sensitization or irritation.
Suggested Reading: Nail Structure and Product Chemistry
This classic tome by industry expert Doug Schoon is the definitive book of fact-based information about natural and artificial nails. It supplies information about nail allergies/dermatology and products as well toxicology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, and materials science in a readable, easy-to-understand format. www.schoonscientific.com
Ventilation is a must. Use a dust extractor fan in the desk, wear a face mask, and open windows where possible. If skin allergies are from products, apply petroleum jelly around the skin (careful not to get it on the actual nail, as this can affect product adhesion) so there’s no contact with the product and the skin. If all else fails use natural products.
Jenny Hallas, Rose Nails, Burntwood, England
When doing acrylics, avoiding contact with the built nail even during finish and using the correct liquid-and-powder products during build is key. Wearing gloves also helps. Nitrile gloves are best, as they are thicker and less allergy-inducing than latex gloves. You should switch products the moment you begin feeling heat in your skin or even a slight itching after fills.
Janet McCormick, Salon Gurus and Nailcare Academy, Fort Myers, Fla.
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