Alice Allergen


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The Geek

Grand Master Geek
Premium Geek
Jan 9, 2003
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Leeds, UK
I have discovered something as of late: Some people can be a lot like irritating allergens.

Take Alice for example; she comes over one day and starts to spew some garbage and acts as irritating as an outbidded David Dickenson. But hey, everyone has their bad days eh? Sadly, Alice seemed to have nothing but bad days as the more she came over, the more drivel spewed forth and the more irritated she made people. Eventually a full blown reaction from constant, prolonged and repeated exposure to their irritating presence occurred. The only thing left was to ban her from sight!


An allergen is a substance capable of causing an allergic reaction because of an individual's sensitivity to that substance. An allergen is a substance that may cause no reaction in a person during initial exposures but further exposures can cause an allergic reaction. All substances not produced by you or your bad self have the potential to become allergens. Sound like an evil government conspiracy? Actually, many (if not most) common allergens are naturally occurring substances like poison ivy, mould, pollen, and ragweed.

Nail products contain a myriad of varied ingredients that are beneficial for the job at hand (pun intended): creating enhancements. On the natural nail plate, these ingredients are highly beneficial but some can act as sensitizers if skin contact occurs. This skin contact could lead to allergic reactions from overexposure if left unchecked.

Over the exposure

Overexposure is a health hazard cause from prolonged and repeated exposure to a chemical above and beyond levels specified as safe by regulatory agencies (say that 10 times fast). All chemicals (anything you can see or touch except for light and electricity) have safe and unsafe levels of exposure.

Let’s get some alcohol to test my theory. A daily glass of red wine can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, but binge drinking can pack your liver in and send it off to Santa in a sleigh.

Through repeated, continual and prolonged exposure, signs of the overexposure will become noticeable as the affected area will begin to become irritated every time the offending allergen is exposed to the same area of skin. How quickly and significant the reactions are usually has a lot to do with the type of sensitizer.

Keep off the grass

The good news in all this is that the natural nail plate itself can not become overexposed to any nail enhancement products as it does not have the ability to form reactions to allergens. Though the nail plate can not react to allergens, haphazard application techniques can carry allergens from the nail enhancement to the skin which can then in turn develop reactions. Every time you apply a product with the happy sounding ‘Avoid skin contact’ warning onto the skin, you overexpose the affected area to potential sensitizers within the product.

Whilst the amount of time it can take for the body to develop an allergic reaction to a sensitizer may vary; in virtually all cases it takes a significant amount of time (6-8 months) for a client to develop skin reactions to nail enhancement products. This time can be affected by the strength of the sensitizers contained in the product.

Some ingredients are weak sensitizers and some are strong sensitizers. The stronger the sensitizer, the quicker and more dramatic the symptoms can be. This is not to say that weak sensitizers can not induce allergic reactions, but rather that they are less likely to cause allergic reactions. Products that are less likely to cause allergic reactions are ‘Hypoallergenic’; meaning ingredients are used that are less likely to cause sensitization than similar products.

Preventing irritating exposure

If a client begins to exhibit symptoms of irritation (redness, itchiness, temporary burning) then take this as a signal that you are overexposing the skin to a sensitizing ingredient and switch them to a system that is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Traditionally, Gels (acrylates, gluteraldehyde, formaldehyde) contain stronger sensitizers than hypoallergenic gel systems (methacrylates) which have about the same strength of sensitizers as liquid and powder systems (methacrylates) which a more likely than wrap systems (cyanoacrylates).

If you begin to exhibit symptoms from working with a system, ensure that you are working in a clean and hygienic manner. Wearing long sleeves while working, washing your hands between clients, and wearing Nitrile gloves (avoid Latex as these can actually worsen the condition) are all great ways to prevent your own skin exposure.

We all know our Alice Allergens. They can come around and spew their irritating nonsense. However it will all be for not as long as you never let them under your skin.

I have a client who has been with me for 7 years. I used Calbrook gel on her nails but since she's been going through menopause the gel wouldn't cure properly. 2 years ago we started using ESN on her nails. 4 months ago her hands started itching everytime she came for a fill. Now her hands swell and forms blisters on her fingertips. At the same time, 4 months ago, she started using a new anti-aging serum which contains fruit acids. What product should I use on her? She would prefer not going back to her natural nails. I am waiting on an answer from ESN. I informed them over a month ago, but they are apparently busy with research. If there is anybody who can give me answers, it would be much appreciated. I have to give my client options asap seeing that her nails are growing quite fast. Thanks for this site.

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