Why Am I Allergic To Nail Polish?

In most cases, every new invention in nail beautification often has artificial chemicals in them. Nail polish is one of those nail beautification accessories we all can’t do without. It presents the incredible appeal, feel, and satisfaction we get from using it with radiant colors.

Sadly, our favorite nail polish can also be a source of concern for our health. It’s no longer news that nail polishes can cause allergies. Knowing a possible allergic reaction, it’s now common for users to take extra care when applying nail polishes. And those who are susceptible to allergic reactions will always ask, why am I allergic to nail polish?

An allergic reaction is simply a way of your body (immune system) telling you it doesn’t like specific contents of a foreign substance.

The hardest part about allergies is that they can happen when your body comes in contact with just about anything. In reality, most people don’t know of their allergies until an allergic incident occurs.

And, with so many chemical ingredients used in making nail polish, it becomes more apparent that it was only a matter of time. This is just a battle we can’t win.

Can Gel Nail Polish Cause Allergic Reaction?

Yes, gel nail polish can cause an allergic reaction. The chemical found in gel nail polish, and acrylic nails can cause an allergic reaction. It is possible to have an allergic reaction to both the chemicals used in gel nail polish and acrylic nails.

The chemicals found in gel nail polish are ethyl methacrylate (EMA) and methyl methacrylate (MMA). Both of these chemicals are harmful to the body if ingested or breathed in. These chemicals are also known as components of a paint thinner called Methyl ethyl Ketone Peroxide or MEKP.

If you have acrylic nails, the chemicals used are divinylbenzene, urethane acrylate, and methylene chloride. These chemicals are also known as potential carcinogens, which means that they can cause cancer if ingested or breathed in.

Why Am I Allergic To Nail Polish?

The chief culprit of any allergic reaction is the ingredients constituting the products. For example, several studies by the British Association of Dermatologists found that around 2.4% of participants in the survey tested positive for an allergy to at least one type of methacrylate.

In the study, nearly two-thirds of the affected participant developed their allergy through “recreational exposure” to nail glue or polish. At the same time, another one-third were nail technicians who had allergic restrictions from product exposure at work.

The risk of having an allergic reaction comes from exposure to uncured nail polish on the skin. Also, if you are using DIY nail polish kits without the proper safety precautions, you increase your chances of developing an allergic reaction.

Even salons are not excluded, but it’s always on occasion. Regardless, it still does. Your allergic reaction to any nail polish product you use results from the presence of chemicals that don’t agree with your body. Often, the reaction is a way of letting you know you need to get rid of the polish.

This makes it necessary to tell when your body notifies you of possible disagreement with a particular nail polish. You will learn all you need to know in this piece about nail polish allergies, their symptoms as well as treatment.

How Do I Know If I’m Allergic to Nail Polish

In most cases, individuals are not always aware of their allergic conditions until their first experience. Today, you can perform special allergy tests known as patch tests to help you diagnose if you have any hidden condition.

Patch tests involve using different nail polish chemicals to test against some well-known allergies. Patch testing for nail polish may be performed using the open or covered method.

However, when it comes to nail polish removers and cuticle removers, open patch testing is recommended due to a high concentration of volatile solvent.

Nail Polish Allergy Symptoms

While allergic reactions manifest differently in people, some symptoms are common. Below are some well-known signs that you can look out for:

1. Lip Rash

Surprisingly, your reaction to nail polish can happen in places you’d the least think of. In most documented cases of rash happening due to allergic reaction to nail polish, it often occurs around the lips. This doesn’t mean it is limited to the lips or areas around the nails alone.

Generally, a rash can break out as allergies to anybody, including hands, neck, cheeks, abdomen, or eyelid. Your allergic reaction can lead to shortness of breath in rare instances, requiring a trained medical expert to handle it. While you might expect the allergic reaction to occur instantly, it can take days to manifest.

A known culprit for causing rashes is the presence of toluene-sulfonamide resin in nail polish. However, allergic reaction in this form isn’t limited to visible rash alone. In other persons, it manifests as itchiness.

In addition, these allergies are typically tricky to diagnose since they can break out in unrelated places. Thankfully, you can rely on a series of chemical patch tests performed by a dermatologist to help determine the exact cause.

2. Dark Circles

While this might sound farfetched, the truth is you can develop Black eyes due to an allergic reaction to nail polish. Admittedly, this condition is rare, but it does exist.

This follows as a result of blood pools forming under your eyes as swelling occurs in your sinuses as well as their surrounding tissues. A follow-up effect of this reaction is that you might witness pain, itching, watering, blurred vision as well as redness. This happened to a woman who became surprised after finding out her nails were responsible.

3. Blisters

As with dark circles, while a bit extreme, this form of reaction is one of the most prevalent reactions most people with nail product allergies experience. In many cases, they can occur as big blisters are big, while sometimes, they appear as smaller micro blisters.

A general characteristic of this reaction is that they are always painful and itchy. Popular YouTuber, FionazNailz once shared her experience of the blisters and swelling she got after having an allergic reaction to a specific kind of UV gel.

4. Red and Swollen Cuticles

This is quite popular among nail polish allergies. It manifests as red, swollen cuticles and skin around your nails. In some cases, this reaction comes with itchiness to further compound your worries.

While this is often considered an allergy, medical experts often put it in a class of its own, readily referred to as “contact dermatitis.” And according to Dr. Susan Taylor, it is more of a skin condition than an allergy.

Contact dermatitis is when your skin reacts to damage or irritation, and it’s often as painful as a genuine allergic reaction. A leading cause of this condition is methyl acrylate.

5. Warm Nail Beds

Warm nail beds for an extended period with an itchy sensation can be an allergic reaction to your recent use of nail polish. However, this form of allergy is more familiar with the help of nail gels. This happens when gels don’t cure properly.

In such instances, uncured gels trapped close to your nails and skin can penetrate your skin tissues. Your best bet at avoiding this is to ensure that gel UV lights are correctly maintained. This is because, after several uses, they begin to lose power.

6. Runny Nose

Except when in flu season, any form of cold or seasonal allergy-type symptoms you get can result from an allergic reaction to your nail polish.

Most certainly, you need a doctor to diagnose this, and I caution against self-medication. That said, a Runny nose occurs when you breathe in the fumes coming from your nail polish. This can lead to a health condition known as allergic rhinitis. When not correctly checked, allergic rhinitis can quickly spiral into countless other conditions such as cough, fatigue, sneezing, blisters, sore throat, hives, and several different respiratory or skin diseases.

How To Prevent Nail Polish Allergies

For die-hard nail polish fans, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself against allergic reactions from your favorite nail polish. The steps below can help you prevent an outbreak:

1. Avoid Skin Contact

Avoiding skin contact during nail polishing is the first step in preventing allergies. This helps you limit any potential exposure to irritants. Wearing gloves as well as other protective clothing will help you with this.

But, again, you want to stay away from reusing protective gear like gloves and masks and dispose of them properly to prevent any other allergy risks. Another protection method is to use liquid tapes around the skin of your nails before you start polishing.

2. Use the Right Equipment

Using the right equipment will help you prevent an allergic reaction. From the application of the polish to the polish itself and drying, avoid improvising. Also, allow polish to cure correctly as the uncured polish is a potential origin for allergic reaction.

3. Watch Out For Dust

Nail polish allergies don’t only occur during application. The removal of nail polish from the nail is also a potential trigger for your allergies. In addition, fumes from the polish bottle and dust generated during filing can trigger a reaction. Likewise, dust or fumes coming from the air or product can potentially trigger if your client has allergies.

How to Get Rid of Nail Polish Allergy

Sadly there is no permanent cure for nail polish allergy. The condition is a reaction from your body to a foreign substance. Your best bet is to avoid products that trigger an allergic reaction. You can also perform a diagnostic test to determine if you are allergic to certain constituent chemicals.

Nail polish allergies should clear quickly once the allergen (polish) is removed. You can apply steroid creams containing antibiotics to help improve the rate of recovery.

For allergies appearing on other body parts, treatment should follow a routine for the symptoms. For rashes, blisters, and dark circles, you can use topical corticosteroids and moisturizers to aid the recovery process.


Nail polish is an essential part of the nail beautification process, but the chemicals that make them pose a danger to users’ health.

While many of these products strive to be allergen-free, the truth is different people react to chemicals differently, making it hard to attain. Thankfully, you can now perform patch testing to know which polish is compatible with you and which isn’t.

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