While you may be saving a few dollars, learning how to do your own manicures and pedicures at home doesn’t always come without a price. During the pandemic, many people ordered their own at-home gel manicure and extension kits so they could have their nails done at home.
Even now that it’s safe to resume normal activities, like going to get a fresh set of claws, lots of ladies and gents have kept up with at-home manis and pedis out of sheer convenience. It also tends to cost less than a salon or spa visit.
But unfortunately, these at-home gel and full-cover manicure kits aren’t always the safest and healthiest option. Even though they sound pretty harmless, at-home manicures done with gel or extension kits can lead to allergies, nail damage, and skin irritation. Plus, UV lamps have been linked to an increased risk of developing skin cancer and these are typically used with gel or shellac nail treatments.
Home manicures and allergies
Methacrylates, a chemical found in gel and shellac polish, can cause a permanent sensitivity for some people. Repeat exposure to the chemical can result in a contact allergy that will remain an allergy for long into the future. For most people, the symptoms of an allergy to gel or shellac made with methacrylates can result in the nail lifting from the finger — ow! — or a severe rash around the nail.
In addition to methacrylates, some gel and shellac polishes also contain formaldehyde, toluene, and even dibutyl phthalate (DBP). These are three chemicals that nobody should be applying to their body in any shape or form! While the chemicals help nail polish last longer without chipping, there has been evidence linking exposure to these three chemicals with reproductive issues, fetal development, and thyroid function.
Aside from these harmful, toxic chemicals that are not derived from natural ingredients, neglecting to properly follow product instructions can also result in an allergic reaction. This means following the suggested amount of time, process, and sanitization recommendations.
Gel polish can even cause something called contact dermatitis, which can cause a red rash around your eyes and on your eyelids, on your neck, or around your nail beds. Further to the rash, you could notice flakey, dry skin, burning, hives, itching, and swelling. In severe cases, people with contact dermatitis may experience blisters that ooze. It’s not pleasant and really not worth the money you’d save when using one of these gel or shellac kits.
What to do if you suspect an allergic reaction
If you’ve done your nails at home, and notice that your nails aren’t necessarily looking right or if they’ve become red around the nail bed, it’s best to take the polish off immediately. It’s common that the symptoms don’t disappear right away, and it can take one to three days before your nails start to look and feel normal again.
In severe cases of allergies and contact dermatitis, people may require an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to treat symptoms. But if this happens, it’s important not to panic as it is not life-threatening. Let it be a lesson!
How to prevent triggering an allergic reaction
The best way to avoid getting an allergic reaction from an at-home manicure kit is to do your research on the ingredients and product before purchasing and using it. Read reviews, go through ingredient by ingredient, and make sure you’re comfortable with the instructions before diving in and covering all of your ten fingers in the product.
Even with natural nail polishes, it’s always wise to do a spot test to see if your skin or nails will have a reaction to it. Simply apply the nail polish to one of your fingers and wait one or two days before coating the other nine.
Because nail polish — regular, gel, and shellac — is applied directly to your nails and skin, it’s really important to ensure that they don’t contain any harmful or toxic ingredients that can impact your health. Like with many cosmetics and beauty products, items made with vegan and naturally derived ingredients can be safer for those with sensitive skin.
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Saving Money at What Cost: The Dangers of At-Home Manicures was originally published in Think Dirty on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.