Let’s talk… At home gel nail kits!

Ello ello!

Blimey, I’m sure these weeks go past quicker and quicker each week haha… but hope everyone’s had a good one? The news of the ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ is somewhat exciting isn’t it? Whether it’ll stick is another story altogether, but lets keep everything crossed that we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this blooming pandemic eh! So what better thing to talk about this week than… an epidemic (sort of) in the nail industry.

Okay, I know that sounds extreme and you’re probably wondering why on earth at home gel nail kits/gel allergies are an epidemic, so let me give you some context…

Before I start though, I want to disclaim that YES I am a nail technician/beauty therapist myself so I hope this doesn’t sound at all biased in any way (it’s not supposed to be biased, I’m only doing it because I’m looking out for your health here), and some people may completely disagree with what I’m about to say and that’s fine, but please, please hear me out, because I personally feel this should be talked about an awful lot more… I also want to point out that I’m now on a mission to ensure that all nail products used by me now on clients & myself are very safe to use and hypoallergenic, just to clarify in case there’s any controversy.


Over these (many) lockdowns I have been doing a lot of research myself into certain ingredients which are in some gel nail products. To my amazement, I’ve found that some specific ingredients are now causing some serious reactions/allergies in people from over exposure to them (hence the word ‘epidemic’ above, because that’s now apparently what some people are calling it). I never got told anything about the severity of certain things (possibly because it wasn’t really a thing back then) when I qualified 5 years ago, I only got told about the fact that as all nail polish is obviously a chemical it could cause people to react, but no more than like what taking a paracetamol (metaphorically & meaning not a lot haha) could do for example. Up until recently when I started doing my own research, I was none the wiser to what ingredients such as HEMA or certain acrylates which are used in nail products could cause, so I know for a fact that lots of people out there are using products and are absolutely none the wiser either (it’s actually really quite scary to be honest). So… for those unaware I feel like it’s time that changed…

(As I’ve mentioned above, I am no scientist and please correct me if I’m wrong in any of the following…) But nail polish (mainly talking gel polish here) allergies are on a serious rise currently due to people not being educated properly about proper application with non-professional kits OR not knowing exactly what’s actually in any of the products that they’re using (think misleading/easy access companies and their avoidance in giving you ALL the product details/specifications). It’s happening all around and yet lots of people are oblivious… This is where ‘at home gel nail kits’ come in. Again, I don’t want to blanket rule them all and say all at home brands OR professional brands are like this, because I know for a fact, they’re not and there are some really great brands out there! However, be aware that brands definitely do not shout from the rooftops when they do include allergenic ingredients. I feel I should hold my hands up high here and say that yes, of course I’ve used brands in the past which fall into this category and in fact up until before COVID was even a thing, I was using a popular professional brand on myself and clients (which I was led to believe was safe & hence is why it appears a fair bit on my instagram) which has a content of such ingredients (don’t worry though, I’ve now withdrawn all) so it really is easily done, and even more easy if you’re not made aware! The thing is though and what makes it easier to dismiss and think you’re invincible, is the fact that it can take literally years (sometimes) to react or to form an allergy to particular allergenic ingredients (due to over-exposure, over time), but in my opinion, prevention is always better than cure (hence why personally, I ensure a consultation is done with every client and I now will only be using hypo-allergenic products). I also want to point out that I’m purposely not going to name (and shame) any brands here as that would be unfair, so please just do your research people and remember; if something seems too good to be true, that might well be because it is.

Before I delve deeper here, I want to reiterate that I am mainly talking about gel polish here and to point out that ordinary polish (i.e polish that takes about 30 minutes to an hour to dry and removes simply with remover) isn’t included in this. But of course if you are allergic to all/ordinary polish please don’t let me tell you otherwise haha…

So you may be wondering what ingredients to look out for? Well to be honest, I honestly wish I could give you a direct answer here… However from what I can see, there seems to be one main culprit; HEMA. Lots of gel polishes have this in nowadays (cheaper, more accessible ones and some professional brands too) and from what I’ve heard, there really is no need for it but they still put it in anyway… But of course as nothing is ever simple (ever, ever haha…), there are some forms of ‘HEMA’ which are safe to use, i.e DI-HEMA (there’s a few more also & sometimes if they have a really low percentage of HEMA, they’re safe too) which I believe, is in hypo-allergenic polishes and is fine to use all the time. I know, its very confusing isn’t it? But in my opinion, I think the best thing to do is; do your research before buying any brands and look for the words ‘Hypoallergenic’ or ‘free from…’ (only if you want to be safe of course) before taking the plunge, because the difference in brands which are deemed as safe is they do the opposite of brands which aren’t… they shout about being safe!

As I keep saying (and will continue to do so, soz…) everyone is of course welcome to their own opinion and will perhaps have used brands for yearsssss without any problems and that’s perfectly fine, but personally I don’t want to take any risks. As for at home kits, please be aware that gel polish is very different from your classic polish from superdrug; gel polish shouldn’t ever come into much contact with your skin (or if it does, it should be kept to a very, very minimum if possible) because this is when you put yourself at a higher risk of reacting! Anatomically speaking, this is because your nail itself isn’t classed as a ‘living tissue’ nor is it particularly porous whereas your skin is, hence why your skin can be slightly more sensitive to some chemicals.

Also did you know that once you’ve formed an allergy to a nail product, you may not ever be able to use certain gel polishes again? and sometimes if a reaction occurs, even certain dental work may need to be ruled out too? I know it sounds extreme and I really don’t want to scare anyone here, but it’s true (to an extent; there are some professional brands which are safe to use after a reaction occurs due to them being hypoallergenic, one being CND, the brand I use!), but it’s 100% definitely something to bare in mind!

Another aspect to throw into the mix is; Lamps! I feel there’s a bit of a stigma in thinking (and I used to think this too a few years back) that brands only do their own lamps to make more money (seems like the logical reason doesn’t it), however this is so, so wrong! They do their own lamps to ensure the product is cured thoroughly (they know this through extensive research into their own products & no two products are generally the same) and some will say the use of ‘unbranded lamps’ or mixing systems (i.e. different polishes brands to lamps brands) can result in the product looking cured at the end, BUT it is in fact not completely cured. Which means you may be left with some un-cured product which can be problematic and cause reactions in some cases, so bare this in mind also!

Now I feel like I should tell you about what I’ve heard can happen if you do react shouldn’t I…

As an FYI here… like anything the severity changes from person to person and the horror stories I’ve read (this is, as far as I know as I’ve never experienced a reaction myself) could be one big fat lie… but I’m sure if it was, there wouldn’t be 100s of people talking about it online would there? But please remember, the below may not ever happen to you, the last thing I want to do is scare you away from gel polish, because it really, really is great when used correctly, I just wanted to share something I wish I’d known way before I actually found out.

Soooo from what I’ve heard, some people have experienced a mixture of the following:

  • Onycholysis (nail separation) – the most common and is basically where the nail separates from the nail bed. This can vary from mild to severe.
  • Itchiness, redness & swelling on the fingers – again can vary in severity.
  • Rashes which can appear anywhere on the body.

There are more, but these are the 3 most common visible reactions which i’ve heard of, but they still don’t sound overly nice do they?

Overall, I think you can probably get the picture here and hopefully get where I’m coming from? I also hope that made a little bit of sense and didn’t just scare you sh*tless, because that really was not what I wanted to do. As I’ve said above, I could be wrong and no doubt someone will read this and completely disagree with me and that’s fine. However if this is correct (which I’m 98% sure it is), I just want you all to be aware of what to look out for and to not just get sucked into the ‘life changing gel polish that’s only a fiver’ type situation! Of course don’t let me stop you mind you, just don’t say I didn’t warn you😉

Again I want to reiterate (I know I’ve said this a few times but I’ll say it again haha…) that not all gel polish does this and mostly, you will be absolutely fine, but please just be aware. There are some seriously good brands out there and I personally LOVE gel polish and love performing gel manicures on you all, you just sometimes have to put your sensible head on and put google to good use on certain things! Or just leave it to the professionals which would probably be easier, but of course it’s your call 😉

Anyway, I shall rest my case there and go and apply my daily dose of cuticle oil… (uh oh, the cuticle oil reference is back…)

Happy (safe) gel’ing girls & guys!

& as always… Take care and stay safe,

Lots of love, Ella x

Ps. Feel free to drop me a DM on instagram (@ellamaybeauty) or via email (you can find this on the ‘Contact’ page on my website here) if you would like a chat about anything of the above/what products I use/if there’s anything you think i’ve got wrong, as I understand that for some people this could potentially be a slightly touchy subject. My inbox is always open❤️

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