Can You Be Allergic To False Nails? The Problem Is More Common Than You May Realise, According To New Research

Susana Ramírez, Stocksy

Mix celebrities with social media and you end up with some wild and wacky beauty trends. A lot of these in recent months have revolved around nails; acrylics, gels, you name it. A quick trip to a salon and you can end up with jelly-like talons or incredible 3D creations. But dermatologists believe that the trend for unnatural nails is causing health problems in the UK. Turns out, you could be allergic to false nails without even realising it.

Last week, the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) issued a formal warning on the matter. (Given a 2013 survey found that women are spending £450 on their nails each year, a lot of us will probably want to take note.) "It is really important that people know they can develop allergies from artificial nails," commented BAD's Dr. David Orton, reports the BBC. "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."

The warning comes after two studies into false nails revealed rather surprising results. The first — carried out by BAD throughout 2017 — tested almost 5,000 patients in various dermatology clinics across the UK and Ireland for an allergy to (meth)acrylate chemicals; one of the main ingredients found in acrylic nails, gel nails, and gel nail varnish.

Experts found that 2.4 percent of participants were allergic to at least one type of (meth)acrylate. (Women, in particular, were way more prone to this kind of allergy, making up 93 percent of the people affected.) This may not sound like a lot but dermatologists believe that the real percentage may be much higher as this type of chemical is not included in routine patch tests.

An allergic reaction to (meth)acrylates will only occur if the skin comes into direct contact with the wet chemical. While this is unlikely to happen in a reputable salon, the chance of it happening with a DIY gel polish kit at home is inevitable to say the least.

But if you were expecting to see a little rash near your nails, think again. Dermatologists say that the symptoms can appear anywhere on the body that your nails might reach including "the eyelids, face, neck, and genital region." As well as a "severe red itchy rash" on any of those places, people may also experience loosening of their nails. Breathing problems can also occur, however, this is "very rare", according to BAD.


A further study carried out by BAD and Stylfile examined a further 742 people visiting dermatology clinics. Some 19 percent of participants admitted to experiencing negative side effects after visiting a nail salon for acrylics while 16 percent of respondents said the same for gel nails.

Now, dermatologist, Dr. Deirdre Buckley, is urging people to "be careful when using home kits. If you do use one, make sure that you use the recommended UV lamp for curing (hardening), and read the instructions carefully."

In addition, ff you use the wrong lamp, the gel may not harden properly, potentially putting your skin at risk.

The more superficial side effects of having false nails fitted over and over again have long been discussed. In 2016, a beauty blogger went viral after showing the painful reality of having acrylic nails for six years.

Katie-Jane Heneghan, the owner of a nail salon in Edinburgh, told the Daily Mail that "long-term use of acrylic nails can hamper natural nail growth, resulting in severely deformed fingernails. This may cause a number of defects including ridges, thickened, rough nails, and discoloured nails." Not really what you want, is it?

If you've ever noticed a rash appearing just after doing your nails, you might want to consider visiting your GP for a quick allergy test. It's better to be safe than sorry.