Avoiding Skin Allergies
It's Easy to Do!
Doug Schoon, M.S.
Vice President of Science and Technology
Creative Nail Design
Allergic reactions to many types of cosmetics may
occur when the skin is repeatedly exposed to small amounts of
allergy causing ingredients. Dermatologists have a special
name for allergy causing substances; they are called allergens.
For example, pollen is a common allergen. In fact, most
allergens are natural substances, (i.e. poison ivy, ragweed).
Some ingredients used in cosmetics may also be allergens.
Usually these ingredients are beneficial for the vast majority of
people. However, just as there are people sensitive to
pollens, some people are sensitive to cosmetic ingredients. Of
course, the great majority never experience any problems. But,
a smaller number of people may develop skin allergies when exposed
over a period of time. Allergic skin reactions usually occur
after several months (or years) of exposure to the ingredient's).
It is important to understand that cosmetic related skin allergies
usually don't happen right away.
Fragrance ingredients are the most common
cosmetic allergens. In fact, sensitivity to preservatives
(necessary for proper shelf-life) and fragrances account for most
cosmetic-related skin allergies. Of course, other types of
ingredients may also cause sensitive clients to develop symptoms
such as redness, itching or other signs of irritation. Simple
irritations usually reverse themselves when exposure is
discontinued. However, symptoms may worsen with repeated
exposure or could develop into skin allergies. Once skin
develops an allergic sensitivity to an ingredient, the allergy will
be permanent! When the skin's immune system recognizes an
ingredient as an allergen, it never forgets and will always react
negatively upon exposure. Clearly, all nail professionals should
understand the importance of avoiding product overexposure.
Skin allergies can occur with any type of
artificial nail enhancement. Often, the allergy begins as a
slight itch or reddish area, or a spot that feels 'warm'. If
the facial area is touched with contaminated fingers, the skin might
become irritated near the chin or around the eyes. On the
fingernails, if ignored and overexposure continues, these symptoms
can become an annoying itch of the nail beds or water blisters
around the cuticle area, sidewalls or fingertips. If ignored
still, the symptoms might spread to hand or wrist. Luckily,
all of this is easy to avoid - if you understand your products and
use them wisely.
Which type of enhancement products can cause skin
allergies? All of them can! But "can" is different than
"will" -- in most cases, these allergies can be avoided and the nail
professional is the key! UV gels, liquid monomers, wraps and
tip adhesives share several ingredients capable of causing skin
allergies. What's the reason for these skin reactions?
In a nutshell, the culprit is overexposure caused by
prolonged or repeated skin contact and usually many
months, sometimes years of exposure.
For instance, a sticky, water-resistant product
remaining on the skin for long periods may lead to overexposure via
prolonged contact. Or, constantly touching uncured gel
or liquid monomers on a brush handle may create overexposure by
repeated contact. Touching the brush flags to the soft
tissue of the eponychium, sidewalls or under the free edge are
common ways of overexposing clients. No matter which type of
enhancement product is used, each shares the same general
requirement - they must be cured properly if they are to be used
safely. In short, skin contact must be avoided with uncured
gels, monomers, resins and adhesives.
Below are a few of the main reasons
enhancement-related skin allergies occur and some useful tips for
Cause #1: UV gels are usually very
sticky, adhering tenaciously to brush handles, tabletops and
containers. This can make it more difficult to avoid
prolonged and repeated contact. Also, UV light is required
to harden the gel. The various types of bulbs (used in UV
lights) quickly begin to emit less and less UV light. After
a while, they don't produce enough UV light to properly cure the
product. After 3-6 months (depending on your usage) these
bulbs emit less than half the UV light of a new bulb - even though
the bulbs continue to emit UV visible blue light. This often
fools nail professionals. UV light is invisible, so
you cannot see when the intensity is lower. Inexpensive UV
bulbs (often with lower quality) may save a little money, but will
leave uncured (un-reacted) ingredients in the product. On
the other hand, some gels heat us excessively, causing the client
to jerk their hand from the light. Shortening the time under
the light produces the same effect as using old UV bulbs -
incomplete and improper cure of the enhancement. What's the
result of incomplete cure?
Un-reacted ingredients can be left inside the
enhancement. These are ingredients that normally would react
and become a permanent part of the artificial nail.
Un-reacted ingredients are usually fairly mobile. In other
words, they can migrate through both the artificial and natural
nail, until reaching the soft, living tissues of the nail bed.
Such allergies often cause clients to complain about "itchy" or
"warm" nail beds.
Finally, it is very important to avoid soft
tissue contact with the gooey surface layer. This layer of
'goo' is caused by the affect of air on curing the gel. the air
above the gel prevents the product from properly curing on the
surface. This annoying phenomenon is made worse by weak or
old UV bulbs. This gooey layer contains un-reacted
ingredients which can cause skin problems, so always avoid skin
contact. Alcohol or other solvents used to wipe away this
layer carry the allergens to your fingers through the cotton or
pad, increasing the potential for skin overexposure.
Prevention: Avoid skin contact and
keep implements and containers clean. Keep table area free
of UV gel and dusts. Be especially careful to avoid contact
with the gooey surface roll-off. It is best to use a plastic
backed pad to prevent product ingredients from soaking through to
the skin. Avoid laying your arm(s) in the dusts or where you
wipe your brush. Freshly hardened dusts still contain small
amounts of un-reacted ingredients.
Use only high quality UV bulbs from a reputable
source and replace them often - especially if used every day.
Clean the bulbs daily to prevent dusts and/or product build-up.
Apply thinner layers of gel to prevent excessive heat (exotherm).
Thinner layers will allow the product to cure more completely.
Don't shortcut the recommended time client's hands are in the UV
light and make sure they are positioned correctly by following the
instructions provided with the unit.
Cause #2: Overexposure to monomer
liquids can cause skin allergy as well. Odorless products
are more likely to cause client sensitivities than the
traditional, odor-based enhancement products. Odorless
products must be used with a dry bead consistency, but are often
used with too wet a mix ratio. As with all liquid/powder
systems, the ratio of monomer (liquid) to polymer (powder) must be
correct. A medium consistency (slightly on the dry side) is best.
Avoid using enhancement products with a wet mix
ratio. the powder carries an ingredient needed to completely
cure the enhancement. Using too little powder (equals
working wet) will leave un-reacted ingredients inside the
enhancement. Different companies use varying amounts of
curing agents in their powders, so only use powders that are
specifically designed for that monomer liquid. If you don't,
your mix ratio will be out of balance. As with UV gels,
un-reacted ingredients can migrate to the nail bed and cause
itching. Allergic skin reactions, i.e. 'water blisters'
around the nail plate area can result if brush flags touch the
skin repeatedly. Skin contact can also occur while 'cleaning
up' around the sidewalls or under the free edge with the wet
Prevention: As with UV gels, keep
brush flags off the soft tissue to avoid transferring monomer
liquid to the skin. Leave a tiny margin between the product
and the eponychium and sidewalls. Ensure you are always
using the proper mix ratio - never wet! Don't use a brush
soaked with monomer to smooth the enhancement. Always use
the correct powder with the monomer liquid. Keep your table
free of dusts and avoid laying your arms on the towel where you
wipe your brush. No matter what you use, all nail
professionals should wash their hands after each client.
Also, always use a moisturizer to ensure hands are properly
Wraps and Glues: These contain
ingredients found in other types of systems, so they can cause
skin allergies (as well). Even so, they are much less likely
to cause allergies and very few clients develop sensitivities to
them. Why? Mainly, because they react almost instantly
in the presence of moisture, so only trace amounts of un-reacted
ingredients remain. Simply avoiding repeated direct skin
contact is enough to avoid overexposure. Glues are
frequently the first product that is suspected when clients
complain of itchy nail beds, but they are seldom to blame.
Remember: Avoid over-filing the
nail plate. The top layers are composed of very hard cells
designed to protect and seal the underlying layers. If filed
away with too aggressive of a technique, the nail plate becomes
more susceptible to penetration by un-reacted ingredients.
So, keep the plate thick and healthy! that's every nail
professional's most important job.
Skin allergy is possible with many types of
cosmetic products. Luckily, allergies to nail enhancement
products are easy to avoid. But, you must have the correct
information and understand how to properly apply your knowledge.
If you understand the causes, you will be able to avoid product
related skin allergies. The key is to reduce product
exposure to safe levels by avoiding skin contact. Client
allergies to nail enhancement products usually take many months to
develop, so there are many chances to prevent skin contact.
Nail professionals must also take care to avoid overexposing
themselves and becoming sensitive. In short, avoid prolonged
and/or repeated contact to all nail related products, while
always using them safely and wisely. That's the best way to
ensure that your clients will love their nails.
|Just a Note:
one product line/type of nail product to another will not alleviate skin allergy
symptoms. According to Doug Schoon, all artificial nail
related products 'share' many of the same chemicals. Once allergic, we are allergic for life, so
the best way to alleviate the problem of skin related allergic
reaction, is to soak off the enhancements in an approved remover,
perform a natural nail manicure, and prescribe a Nail Toughener
(such as Toughen Up by Creative Nail Design) that will help to give
the nail plate more strength by adding additional cross-linking
molecules to the nail plate until it grows out on its own.
Also, twice daily applications of Solar Oil will
help to keep the natural nail plate flexible and strong as it grows.
A conditioning treatment
that penetrates deeply and quickly, softening cuticles and
promoting strong, flexible natural nails and enhancements.
SolarOil's natural blend of Jojoba Oil, Sweet Almond Oil and
Vitamin E creates a light, penetrating oil with antioxidant
Solar Oil is available in
1/8 fl. oz, 1/2 fl oz or in larger sizes to professionals
through 'Professional Only' distributors, and to clients
through their local Nail Salons.