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The FNP reveals findings from its first nail industry allergy survey

By Guest Writer | 25 April 2022 | Feature, Health & wellbeing

Allergy Hands Itchy

Marian Newman BEM, chair of The Federation of Nail Professionals, shares findings from the FNP’s first allergy survey…

A large part of the nail sector is aware of an ‘allergy epidemic’ that we and our clients are suffering from. Acrylate based nail coatings have been available and used since, at least, the late 1970’s and there are of course, incidences of allergies naturally occurring in some people, and the occasional reaction due to overexposure. These incidences would be expected in less than 10% of all users – but the last decade has seen some drastic changes.

The situation was identified by the British Association of Dermatologists in 2018, mostly due to the rise in allergies in consumers of retail UV cured products (aka UV gel polish). This situation spilt over into the professional sector. Nail professionals and their clients were experiencing unusual and, often, very severe symptoms. The symptoms were puzzling but, with some recent research, the situation is becoming clearer.

There is a free video on some of this research and the mechanics of how allergies happen via

The Federation of Nail Professionals is in many conversations at government level regarding the type of products that are causing problems and Trading Standards has received a number of reports. Anecdotal information is one thing, but the authorities need numbers. With this in mind, #TheFeds decided to launch an allergy survey to understand, in some way, the numbers of allergies amongst nail pros and their clients. We ran this survey during February and had around 600 participants in total.

The survey was anonymous and the full report has been sent to the Office of Product Safety & Standards, part of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Due to funds available, #TheFeds was unable to create a professional survey and report, so what we have is the best we could manage.

The biggest problem is that fact that so few with symptoms were able to get a dermatological patch test as the NHS waiting list is 12-24 months and a private consultation is costly. The pandemic situation made matters worse. But I must emphasise that the problem arose pre-pandemic.

With the difficulty of discovering exactly what ingredients were causing the problems (plus a lack of education and understanding), many techs and pros tried various brands which exacerbated the issue. We asked many questions; firstly about nail pros and then about their clients.

Nail pros & allergy stats

From 584 responses, 28% have experienced unwanted reactions but only 12% have received dermatological results (from 313 responses). This is mostly due to either lack of availability, private costs or no inclination or time. This also means that allergic reactions are, largely self-diagnosed. Not only that, but there is no information on exactly which ingredient(s) is the cause. How can anyone without that diagnosis know what the way forward is? Trying out different brands is not the answer.

The time it took to exhibit an unwanted reaction is higher between less than six months and six to 12 months, and 49% of those that answered fell into this bracket. This demonstrates how quickly this can happen, as 18% took over two years and 15% over five years.

According to our survey, 74% used a matching UV lamp to their chosen gel polish system. This is a good result. However, the survey may not have been of interest to those that don’t use a matching system, or are unreachable. From the messages I receive, it is clear that both regulated and accredited courses have teachers who are also in denial about this important fact, and the new NOS addresses this issue.

Another interesting response is that out of 247 responses, a massive 64% have changed brands. But have they changed to a brand that suits them and their clients? Hypoallergenic is good but there is no guarantee that no allergies will occur.

From 487 responses, it is half that use a HEMA-free brand. HEMA is not an ‘evil child’ – it is the percentage of HEMA used that is important, and 89% have not experienced any unwanted reactions to HEMA-free products (323 responses).

Clients & allergy stats

A huge 38% of clients (from 591 responses) have experienced unwanted reactions. This is potentially 38% of clients that could be lost, and unfortunately many have not had patch tests. With regard to ‘home use’ or DIY kits, 24% of 314 responses have been those clients.

As with nail professionals, the length of time when clients showed symptoms, the majority (48%) was between 0 and 12 months. There are a lot of responses regarding the symptoms have been exhibited. But in the absence of medically diagnosed symptoms, the majority are recognised rather than diagnosed. Suffice to say that onycholysis, hyperkeratosis, irritated skin, blistered, itchy, dry and cracked skin are the most common with usually more than one exhibited at the same time. The extreme reactions have included destruction of the nail plate.

What is such a shame is that 63% (265 responses) have not contacted the brand used and 94% (286 responses) have not contacted any authority. From another recent research project (that is only available to the authorities) the conclusion is that:

  • Isobornyl acrylate (IBOA) and hydroxymethyl methacrylate (HEMA) in high percentages are the most common problems in the ingredients
  • Applying a coating too thickly causes an undercuring of the product
  • Using a mismatched UV lamp can cause undercuring
  • A high percentage of monomers has been proved to cause ‘leeching’ during the wearing of a coating if undercured. (Leeching is where unreacted monomers in the coating are escaping the coating onto the skin during normal wear causing unwanted reactions.)

In conclusion, this epidemic can be pinpointed to a perfect storm of imports (in the mid 2010’s) that have a high percentage of monomers in their formulas plus a total lack of good education with the proliferation of short courses that are not fit for purpose.

So many of these short courses are not qualifications. At best they are CPD (Continued Personal Development) that should follow a robust beginner course, whether regulated or accredited. Regulations for our sector will be introduced. It will take time but will involve regulated qualifications and the FNP is working tirelessly to make sure they will be fit for purposes for our sector. But we do need you to join as an FNP member and for brands to financially support us.

To become an FNP member, visit