Wow where do I start?
I first learnt about allergic reactions in 2015. Its not new to me. It doesn’t shock me.
I will set one thing straight before I start. At no point in this blog am I slating anyone or promoting anyone. I’m going to mention some brand names. But this is based on my first-hand experience. In the hope to help others feel less alone and reduce the amount of anxiety so many of you may be feeling right now!
So, I will start at the beginning. When I first encountered a nail allergy.
This is an example of how an allergy can happen at ANY time. It isn’t necessarily because it’s a bad product (we will cover that further on). I had a client react to her gel nails in the strangest way, I’d never heard of it but we did tests, with trial and error and came to the conclusion to stop having gel nails.
This client was getting rashes appear where her nails were rested on her skin for long periods of time. Mostly whilst she was sleeping, and her nails would be touching her skin on another part of her body. But not once did she react on her fingers or her nails.
I didn’t stop using the brand. I still love their products. You would probably be shocked to hear, this was actually Brillbird. Why would you be shocked? Because you hear Brillbird and think omg they are an amazing highly reputable brand. They still are! I had no other reactions whatsoever.
If I knew then what I know now… I would have had so many more questions and ways to determine the issue, one being to send her to her GP for further investigation. For all I know… this could have been from a hand cream she used before going to sleep. I wasn’t educated enough to know what to ask and what to do! It wasn’t a thing when I trained and I’m actually ashamed to admit it, but I was an educator then too and I didn’t know what to do!! How bad is that?!
This was 10 years into my career too! But the first reaction I had ever encountered!
I used to be predominantly an acrylic tech. I was crazy about acrylic. That’s what launched my career. I didn’t really do much gel art. Day in day out acrylic!
Dust everywhere.. dare I say it.. no mask… no apron.. no gloves. Sound familiar!? Those that trained as long ago as I did anyway. When I was trained at college I passed from just slapping the product on everywhere and just making it look neat! It’s crazy when I look back now.
Fast forward to just before covid hit and I was getting rashes, irritating patches. Scratchy throat. Sore eyes. Itchy on my fingers. As soon as I would have a break from work for a few days the rashes stopped. I’m to blame, it’s self-inflicted! I didn’t have the correct knowledge and had that ‘it wont happen to me’ attitude.
Again poor education and not taking things seriously.. landed me in a tricky situation! Luckily I noticed this and took action before it developed into anything too bad. But had I not started to further my research and skill set (continued personal development aka cpd through doing more courses) and continued the way I was.. things may have been different!
Did I go crazy with education after this? YES! Did I ask all those questions I felt stupid asking? YEP!
But what did I gain? Knowledge & Confidence in the products I was using.
Before I go on further what I am trying to say, as a nail technician we expose ourselves to these chemicals day in day out. If we don’t protect ourselves, even from the dust particles, logically, what do we really expect to happen?
I was exposing myself to these chemicals for 10-12 hours a day up to 6 days a week! That’s a lot! GLOVES… MASKS… APRONS!! If you don’t wear aprons make sure you are wearing clothing that covers the areas where dust will fall. There can still be uncured product in dust when filing!
When it comes to clients and products it’s a different slower exposure. I will cover this as I see it a lot. Something as simple as cleaning up with your monomer soaked brush… just the slightest bit on the skin… that’s exposure! Yes it may take longer to cause a reaction but its still over exposure… to chemicals.
This is a picture of acrylic applied incorrectly.
The best way around this is do some research, find a tech that is reputable, knows their stuff and do some training! Read some articles with advice. Take advantage of peoples tips and tricks on how to avoid over exposure! Why clean up your work when you can learn how to do it without needing to clean up?
You really don’t need to and shouldn’t be touching the skin when applying product. If you are or accidently touch the skin because your client moved, then knowledge on how to clean up quickly and correctly is important to know.
Am I getting carried away…….. NO! There is so much I have to say and its just flowing!
The hot topic now, dare I say it… The BBC interview!
Firstly, I just want to remind you… Media articles have a way with words and there are some articles published after that interview, that are really scaring some techs and clients!
Yes there is professional brands out there that people have developed allergies to. There have been lies, witch hunts, techs tearing into techs, brands slamming brands…. The list goes on.
I’m not here for the brand slamming. I’m not going to name names to bitch. Allergies have been around and developing to all sorts of chemicals for years. Look at lash extensions for instance. You have to have a patch test for them, just to check you don’t react before you have them applied. Of course, it’s the sensible thing to do, its on your eyes! But do you see lash brands slamming each other when people have an allergic reaction to them? Or lash techs warning people off brands when someone develops an allergy? I don’t! Because these things happen sometimes.
The main culprit and reason clients are developing allergies are home DIY kits. Amazon, eBay, Supermarkets, Superdrug, Boots…. Selling to the general public, unsafe and for unqualified people to get their hands on and apply with minimal knowledge behind the chemicals they are applying! I’m naming shops here, not brands.
Ask yourself this… was there a high rise before lockdowns? The rise in allergies is ridiculous I’m getting a couple of enquiries a week from clients looking for a solution as they have developed an allergy from home gel kits!
This is a picture of a client of mine. Her first appointment with me after lockdown. She has been applying builder gel and gel polish from amazon.
These were her nails once i had removed all the old product, given a good clean manicure and applied new product.
I have never known anything like it!
The name we keep hearing is HEMA. You don’t often see other ingredients named. There are definitely other ingredients you can react to. But HEMA is the common name being seen.
HEMA, HEPA & IBOA These ingredients are in almost all the professional brands (unless they state they are free of them) They are used for adhesion! Take these ingredients out and the adhesion is trickier, and you have to apply differently with more care.
When using at home with little education, the amount of damage being caused by applying incorrectly is unthinkable. Cleaning up or leaving bits cured to the cuticles. The overexposure is dangerous. I’ve seen it all.
This picture was taken before this lovely lady became a client of mine. She was using a home DIY kit. This wasn't because she wanted a cheap alternative. She enjoyed doing her nails, it was a hobby for her. She has a real passion for nail art. Had she known this was a possible outcome, I think she would have done things differently.
If there is more awareness out there for people wanting to do their nails at home because they love doing it, maybe, just maybe they will think about doing a course to learn the correct way and invest in professional products.
Not once would it cross someone's mind that dental treatments and other surgical procedures use HEMA in their materials for work! Developing an allergy by trying to DIY can cost more than just pretty nails.
With all of this taken into consideration, I decided to rebrand to a gel product free of these ingredients. Not because I had encountered allergies with my clients (thankfully), but because I wanted to get in front of what was possibly to come.
I came to the decision to rebrand because I wanted to, not from being scared in to it or worried about what I was currently using.
I wanted to know I could offer something safe and available to clients who had experienced allergies but worked for those who hadn’t experienced allergies too.
My experience with HONA and why I love the brand is for another blog I am writing. I don’t want this to turn in to a blog trying to sell something to you. That is far from the point.
Since hearing about the BBC interview, I have seen so many brands announcing that they commit to bringing a HEMA free range of gel products and this just makes my heart happy! It gives those who have developed allergies that chance to still have their nails done.
But… and that’s a big but… there are other chemicals you can develop allergies to. It’s not just HEMA!
HEMA is not the villain!! I still use HEMA products. In my extensions. I use crystal nails Acrygel for my extensions. I have spent thousands of ££ on my training to feel confident in my application and my job role of looking after clients nails and their enhancements.
I will not sit here and say you must not use HEMA or HEMA is the devil. This is scaremongering. Also again, its not just HEMA.
OMG I think I might end up dreaming about bloody HEMA tonight I’ve said it so many times!
My main point I want to come from this is.. Education! You can never stop learning! I am learning every day and I’m an educator! Just because I teach doesn’t mean I don’t need to continue my education!
No matter what the media says, no matter what drama is going on in the industry… stay well educated! You really can’t do much more than that. Whilst you educate yourself, you can educate your clients. It doesn’t need to be boring. My clients have always asked me questions about products I use and being able to answer their questions with confidence feels so good.
There are so many skill workshops out there, it doesn’t need to be a complete beginner course. Look at nail knowledge! That is an amazing online course!
Then you’ve got conversion courses. If you have rebranded, conversion courses are great to learn how that brand is used and applied etc. This again comes under cpd.
Good quality education will be forever updated with the most current information. A course you did 2 years ago most likely will have changed if you took it again now. Meaning you are up to date and current with all the latest industry standards, knowledge and techniques.
As well as courses, there are blogs in magazines & websites from experts in the industry offering you their free knowledge and advice on so many different topics.. take advantage of it!
I am going to end this here. If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading and sticking with me to the end of this blog.
My inbox is always open. If you have any questions after this blog just get in touch. No question is too silly. I’m here to help! No judgements!
Over the next few days I will share on my stories, links to blogs, vlogs and other helpful informative content about allergies and just really switched on experienced techs and experts. These will then be saved in my highlights for easy access for when ever you want to read more!
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