Your gel nail polish could affect future medical procedures

A dermatologist explains the long-term effects of manicures

BEAUTYcrew Beauty Editor / April 18 2023

We’ve all heard the horror stories — gel nail polish and the UV lamps required to cure it cause cancer and a myriad of other illnesses. 

But according to dermatologists, exposure to chemicals called acrylates (which are present in gel nail polishes, BIAB, and SNS) can result in acrylate allergies. 

While the prospect of having to mourn our monthly manicures sounds awful, it gets worse. Niki Cardwell reported during BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on April 14th that “acrylates are chemicals that form the basis of all plastics.” 

“They’re used to strengthen bonding agents and are used widely in dentistry and surgery, they’re also in all nail polishes,” she explained to listeners. 

“When used in small quantities they’re usually harmless,” she admitted. “But if, as with some gel nail polishes, they're used in high quantities combined with certain other chemicals, or are not cured properly, they can penetrate the nail and surrounding skin causing irritation and allergies.” 

“Once sensitised the body will no longer tolerate acrylates, meaning anyone with an allergy cannot have medical procedures in which they’re used,” she went on to say. 

During the segment, dermatologist Dr Deirdre Buckley explained that “[symptoms] can range from the nails loosening to falling off, it can [also] include a severe rash on the face, the neck, the upper chest.”

“People can have trouble breathing or asthma can be worsened,” she warned. “Even worse, they can become sensitive to acrylates in other things, which can have implications in dentistry or if they’re diabetic or for orthopaedic surgery, and it’s a life-long sensitisation.”

“This can have serious consequences for future medical care,” she said. “It’s very important that you avoid direct skin contact with the nail product whilst it is curing.”

Reported cases of acrylate allergies are on the incline, and, according to Buckley, lockdown is to blame; “the pandemic contributed to an increase in [un-trained] people using at-home artificial nail kits.” 

It’s not all bad though, there are still ways to take care of your nails at home that aren’t a buzzkill. 

Main image credit: @tombachik

Briar Clark got her start in the media industry in 2017, as an intern for Marie Claire and InStyle. Since then, her keen interest in fashion and beauty has landed her gigs as a Digital Content Producer and Beauty Editor with titles like Girlfriend, Refinery29, BEAUTYcrew and beautyheaven. She loves the way seemingly innocuous topics like skin care and style have the ability to put a smile on people’s faces or make them think about themselves a little differently. A big believer in self love and experimentation, Briar has made a point of becoming the Australian beauty industry’s unofficial guinea pig for unusual treatments and daring hair trends. When she’s not testing out the latest beauty launches, Briar is big on broadening her horizons, mostly in the form of food but she’s also partial to travelling to new destinations both near and far (and of course, allocating an extra bag to bring their best beauty offerings home with her).