Thursday, January 19, 2012

Allergies & Soak Off Gels

Allergies are no joke
Contact dermatitis and Soak-off Gels

There is much more information on the topic of allergies than I could ever give you in a small space.  And while I have a basic understanding of allergies (being an allergy sufferer of many things myself), I am not a scientist, so there is much more science behind allergies than I know.  

I highly recommend researching allergies on your own, as there is a lot of excellent information out there.  Just make sure you are getting  your information from reputable sources such as medical journals and other places that can back their information with accurate research data.  Speak to your doctor if you feel you are developing allergies if necessary.  And always avoid the allergen if possible.  

I apologize for the unusual spacing toward the end of my post and through the guest post. I have tried everything including retyping it all and it is still weird. :-(

What is an allergy?
The body’s abnormal immune reaction to a normally harmless substance that it feels is potentially harmful.

The immune system makes antibodies against a foreign substance (allergen).  When a person then comes into contact with this allergen, the antibodies react by releasing a number of chemicals (such as histamine) which cause allergy symptoms (redness, swelling, rash, itching, etc).  

Allergies can affect any part of the body. For example seasonal allergies or hay fever causing sneezing and itchy eyes, food allergies causing anything from GI upset to facial or throat swelling, medication allergies causing hives or a rash, or something you touch giving you contact dermatitis - which would be the case with allergies to SOG products.  

Allergies can range from localized minor irritation to severe and life threatening anaphylaxis.  

How do allergies develop?
Often through a process known as sensitization.  

The first time a person encounters an allergen, many times there is no reaction.  But this first time the body is exposed to the allergen, it creates antibodies against it.  The next time there is exposure, there may be a reaction.  This allergic reaction has the potential to get more severe each time there is exposure to the allergen, though this does not always happen.

In other cases a person may have an allergic reaction to something they’ve never encountered before, if the body considers the allergen especially harmful and attacks it immediately.  

Why do some people have allergies and others don’t?
That is uncertain.  It is suspected that there is a hereditary component.  If other family members have allergies it may be more likely that you will develop allergies also, but that is not a given. If you have an allergy to one thing, you are more likely to develop allergies to other things.

So, what does any of this have to do with using SOG?
As mentioned, an allergy can develop to anything.  

Once cured, Soak-off gel products have very little risk of causing an allergy, but the substances in uncured gel can be allergy producing.  This is why it is very important to keep uncured gel off your skin and to ensure you are using a quality curing lamp that is able to fully cure the gel.  

It is always recommended by manufacturers to use the lamp they either sell themselves or specifically recommend to be used with their product.  For those who like to use several different brands of SOG, it’s impossible to have every company’s different lamp.  However, most brands recommend either their own LED lamp (if they have an LED curable product) or a 36 watt CFL-UV lamp.  I believe that Shellac is the only company who specifically says you must use their CFL-UV lamp.  

That being said, the 36-watt CND Shellac lamp is a very good lamp.  Since it is a 36 watt lamp, it should cure any gel out there in the market.  If you refer back to my post on lamps, you will recall the possible reasons that one manufacturers LED lamp may not cure all LED-curable gels.  For one thing, the wavelength of light they emit is very narrow.  

If you aren’t using the correct lamp, it is possible that while the gel may look fully cured, it’s not.  Repeated exposure to the uncured gel means your body is constantly coming into contact with those potential allergens, which means you may develop an allergy to it.  

A couple of the members over on the Purse Forum have unfortunately already experienced just this type of allergy - a contact dermatitis when they applied their SOG..... A SOG they’d used for a while before with no issues.   Attached below there will be a guest-entry from one tPF member.  It is her personal experience and thoughts on the subject of allergies.  

So how does one avoid allergies to SOG?
There are no guarantees in life, so even if you do everything right, there is still the potential to develop allergies (to anything really, not just SOG).  However, you can do some things to hopefully prevent it.  Other people will never develop an allergy regardless, but why risk it?

Always keep uncured gel off your skin as much as possible.  Paint your nails carefully, keeping a thin margin around the edge of the nail.  If you do get any gel on your skin or cuticles, use an orangewood stick to remove it before you cure the gel.  Wash your hands as soon as you are completely done with your manicure to wash off any residue that might remain.

Again, use that correct lamp!  Are you starting to get the idea that this factor is really important?  :-p

You cannot tell just by looking at it if the gel is fully cured or not.  Often, undercured gel will have wear issues - chipping, peeling, not lasting two weeks when you used to be able to wear it that long (not everyone gets 2-3 weeks out of a SOG mani).  If all of a sudden you are having problems, your lamp may need new bulbs if you are using a CFL-UV lamp.  If you are using a new LED lamp, is it the correct lamp for the product, or are you using another manufacturers lamp?  

Not everyone may be privvy to undercured gel because they suddenly have wear issues.  Since there’s not really good way to tell if it’s fully cured or not, this is why many of us recommend using the proper lamp.  Even when you are having OK wear-time there is still a possibility the gel isn't fully cured if you aren't following the directions for cure times and lamp types.

What can I do if I do develop an allergy?
The best advice is to avoid whatever is causing the allergy!  When you’ve gotten used to having great nails because of SOG, the prospect of suddenly giving that up might be a little disconcerting, but it’s your health we are talking about here.  

It may be possible it's something else in the process of doing your manicure that you are allergic to. I posted on tPF here with regard to how to do a sort of elimination test if you really think it is possible that it is only one element causing the reaction.  If you find that all you are allergic to is one element, then you can try to replace that element with something else, another brand, etc.

Even if your reaction is mild, you shouldn’t continue to use the product if you are allergic to it.  Remember, allergies can get more severe over time for some people.  You don’t want to continue to expose yourself to the allergen in hopes the allergy will go away.  They usually don't.  

It seems that, at least in some cases, the SOG allergy isn’t related to the gel itself but rather to the photoinitiatiors that cause the polymerization reaction (cause the gel to harden).  It seems that LED-reactive photoinitiators at much higher risk of being allergy-causing than those that only cure in CFL-UV lamps.  

Shellac is one such product that is only CFL-UV-curable, and claims to be a bit hypoallergenic.  There are other CFL-UV only products out there as well, such as LeChat Perfect Match, Light Elegance P2 and many of the pot-style gels.  The only way you would know if these products would work for you too, like they did for my guest-blogger, is to try them if you are willing to.  


Guest Entry From Krr607

Here is my sorry tale about how allergies ruined my fun with soak off gels....

All my life I have loved all things nail, on and off I went to salons but was rarely happy with the result and usually ended up coming home and perfecting the job myself. Over the years I spent a fortune on base coats and tops coats and different brands of polishes promising ’10 day’ , ‘ no chip’ formulas, but within only a few hours my nails would chip.

Then I discovered polish hybrids and soak off gel, firstly Shellac which I fell in love with, then Gelish which I became obsessed about (the gel content helped my weak bendy nails stay lovely for longer). I bought myself a 36 watt generic lamp and off I went, spent a small fortune on collecting as many colours and brands of SOGs as I could afford. Spent hours browsing the purse forum and Salongeek forums for tips and hints.

Then talk turned to the new LED lamps, which were curing Soak off Gel in seconds rather than minutes, this sounded so exciting for a DIY’er that I couldn’t resist, I bought that crescent shaped ‘better’ brand LED lamp from eBay and was delighted with the results.

Once or twice the cure wasn’t right, and the SOG wiped off on the gauze wipe, but I didn’t realise the implication of this and just put it down to something I had done (applying too thick, not curing long enough etc)

I felt that all the advice from manufacturers of Shellac and Soak off Gel to use the corresponding lamp for each system was merely a marketing ploy to make more money. In short, I wanted to save some money and thought I knew better.

All was well for several months and I was having so much fun, so much so that I wanted to start doing my friends nails , so I enrolled on a manicure course and my passion grew.

Then something happened that changed my mind completely....I developed an allergy...

I applied my Soak off Gel as usual and within a couple of hours my fingers around the eponychium became red, swollen and itchy. As I had been using SOG for so long I thought it must be something else so tried to ignore it.

I couldn’t ignore it, it was terribly uncomfortable and painful, so I soaked off my SOG, it was too late the damage was done. Over the next two weeks, the skin broke down and was incredibly painful, so much so that I even had to ask my husband to put my socks on one day as my fingertips were so sensitive.

Day one started with erythema and itchiness 

Later that day the skin break down started

Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of the severe reaction that followed but my fingers broke down with pus filled blisters which eventually burst and became open weeping wounds.

This was approximately day 10 when healing was almost complete! 

After this happened I began to read extensively and came across Doug Schoon’s articles.

I am no scientist and can't remember the exact terminology, but my basic understanding was there is a difference in wavelengths between lamp bulbs and it’s not all about wattage which merely refers to the electricity output (Doug please correct me if I am wrong). The bottom line is I learnt the hard way , I thought I knew better..You CANNOT see with the naked eye if soak off gel is overcured or undercured, it is undercuring that causes over exposure to the gel and over time can lead to sensitivity and allergy issues.

Now fortunately I have found a happy medium, I can use Shellac, it is hypoallergenic and can only be cured in the CND UV lamp. I use the complete system and tread carefully with my application so as not to touch my skin with the product.

I urge anyone to follow the manufacturers instructions, don’t cut corners like I did and don’t think it won’t happen to you ( or heaven forbid a client) , allergies are more common than you would think and once you have developed this problem there is unfortunately no going back.

I would recommend everyone read Doug Schoons work as he is one of the world expert’s in the science behind nail products and has dedicated his career to this.


Some other resources and information regarding allergies and nail enhancements:


  1. Thank you SO MUCH for this post. I just started experiencing problems with my gel polish-- including itching, redness, and small blisters. I already have a condition called Palmoplantar Pustulosis, which is an autoimmune condition similar to eczema and psoriasis, and at first I figured this was just what was going on. But as time went on, it seemed that there was a definite connection to my manicures. :(

  2. I developed a blistery rash, first on one hand, then the other a week after my first Gelish application. I thought it was poison ivy but as it spread more I realized it was not. A prescription steroid ointment Clobetasol Proprionate helped a lot to knock back the itchy blistery stage. Now at 15 days the skin s peeling and a painful crack has developed. The nails themselves are fine but the thought of soaking my peeling cracked fingers is horrifying

  3. One more thing , I noticed the salon was using an OPI lamp to cure the Gelish...could this have contributed to my reaction?

  4. I am experiencing the same issues & I have a strong reason to believe it is because of my LED lamp n NOT the gel because its on the tops of my fingers not nails. I might try another type of lamp... If not I'm pretty much SOL.

  5. Please tell me whether it is possible to get rid of this allergy and continue to use gel nail polish?

  6. Once you have an allergy you have it for life. Its best to just avoid over exposure in the first place. If you develop an allergy to led grls you might still be ok with uv gels like shellac.

    1. Thanks for the answer. I used about 6 months gel lacquer and allergy was not. And suddenly there was an allergy.
      I can no longer use the gel polish ??? still appears allergy? please reply)

    2. My research says that once your body responds negatively to the gel you will ALWAYS react to it. more gel lacquer for you ever again�� sorry, join the club.

  7. Hi iv been told that I'm allgic to gel nails which I was doing at home does this mean I can't have them done at the salon n wat about acrylic nails are they put too?

  8. Iv been told there are products that don't have the 9 chemicals that make you have an allayed does anyone know n tried this product?

  9. I had the exact same problem, exactly as in the first pictures. I manage to keep it under control by putting an acrylic base on my nail and put jojoba oil on my cuticles every evening before bed. Hope this helps if you continue using it even if you form an allergic reaction to it.