Just as safety gates are barriers designed to keep precocious toddlers away from harmful objects, skin barrier creams and gloves helps protect hands from harsh chemicals, which can cause contact dermatitis or an allergic reaction, among other maladies.

How effective are skin barrier creams in preventing skin disorders and allergic reactions when working with nail products? “They are effective if used correctly,” says Doug Schoon, a chemist and executive director of Chemical Awareness Training Service (Irvine, Calif.). “If a nail technician has developed an allergic reaction, using a barrier cream can help reduce contact with the offending product and help speed the healing process.”

Schoon advises that one thing a technician can do to help prevent allergic reactions is to keep her table to clean and free of debris top clean and free of debris.

He also recommends that when using a barrier cream, you don’t touch your client’s fingernails or your brush hairs because the cream will contaminate both. Since barrier creams are designed to resist chemical penetration, they can also cause artificial nails-to lift if they come in contact with them.

Dr. John Murphy, vice president of research and development at Matrix Essentials (Solon, Ohio), says skin barrier creams do help minimize contact with potential irritants. They also help the skin retain moisture by reducing the amount of transepidermal water loss. Most barrier creams, though, are designed to be used with water-based systems such as hair care products.

Richard Smith, national accounts manager at Allied Cosmetics Group (Berwyn, Pa.), says a good barrier cream won’t irritate or dry skin and should help prevent chapping and cracking. Barrier creams allow you to have a better grip and surface adhesion when properly applied, he says.

“A skin barrier cream lets your skin breathe and perspire normally; it will not clog the skin pores or affect the sense of touch or the natural mobility of the hands,” says Robynne Maxfield, vice president of operations at Salt Lake City-based Benchmark Enterprises. “Barrier creams create an invisible barrier between the skin and the caustic chemicals and solutions.”

Maxfield is quick to point out that although barrier creams do provide effective protection against a wide variety of chemicals, they do not. however. make the wearer invincible.

To prevent-accidental contamination. Schoon recommends wearing a barrier cream underneath gloves when working with nail products.

Nail technicians can become sensitized to products and base allergic reactions on their hands and arms due to contact with nail products, says Jeffrey Lauber, M.D., a dermatologist and medical director of the Advanced Skin Treatment Center of Orange Counly (Newport Beach, Calif.), Lauber recommends that nail technicians wear gloves.

“If you wear gloves, buy disposable ones because no glove is going to prefect against chemicals indefinitely,” says Schoon. “Eventually, the chemical will absorb through to the other side of the glove.”

Schoon advises buying latex or vinyl gloves powdered on the inside to make them easier to get on and oil and keep hands dry. “The thicker the glove, the better it is going to bee But I don’t recommend bulky gloves, though, because they’re clumsy and can become a safety hazard,” he says.

Murphy says that if technicians use gloves, they need to choose them carefully because some rubber gloves are made with sulfur compounds, which can aggravate contact dermatitis in people who already have a problem. Switch to a different type of glove if you have an existing problem.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to use a barrier cream or gloves, you should always take normal precautions to safeguard yourself and your client from possible chemical penetration of products into the skin. Using a barrier cream or wearing gloves is an added safety measure you can take to keep hands feeling and looking their best.


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