Dermatologists warn of dangers of acrylic and gel nails

Loose nails, red rash, itch and even breathing difficulties can occur in nail allergy epidemic

UK dermatologists have warned of an “allergy epidemic” arising over a chemical commonly used in acrylic nails and nail gels. 

painted nails

Those who work in the beauty industry or who apply the nails at home are most at risk from the allergies, the British Association of Dermatologists says. 

Reactions to methacrylate — the chemical found in gel nails, acrylic nails and gel polish — include loosening nails or a severe red and itchy rash, which can occur anywhere on the body, including eyelids, face, neck and genitals.

In severe cases, the allergy can even result in respiratory difficulties.

Nail products containing methacrylate need to be ‘cured’ or hardened under a UV lamp.

Problems arise when the ‘uncured’ products come into contact with any part of the skin, causing sensitisation to the chemicals, the association says.

"It is really important that people know they can develop allergies from artificial nails,” says Dr David Orton, of the British Association of Dermatologists. 

"The truth is that there will be many women out there with these allergies who remain undiagnosed, because they may not link their symptoms to their nails, especially if the symptoms occur elsewhere on the body.

"It is important that they get a diagnosis so that they can avoid the allergen, but also because developing an allergy to these chemicals can have lifelong consequences for dental treatments and surgeries, where devices containing these allergens are in common use."

Methacrylates are used in the production of acrylic plastics, and are found in orthopaedic cement, dressings and dentistry. 

The dermatologists association made its comments in light of a 2017 study that found 2.4% of people tested had an allergy to at least one type of methacrylates.

They say the products and reactions are causing a “contact allergy epidemic in the UK and Ireland”, which is a trend “overwhelmingly affecting women”.

Read the British Association of Dermatologists media statement here.

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