Allergic Reaction to Acrylic Nails: Signs & Expert Insights

Allergic Reaction to Acrylic Nails: As a nail technician, I’ve seen clients develop allergic reactions to acrylic nails over time. Acrylic allergies can appear suddenly and cause redness, swelling, rashes, and burning around the nails. While alarming, these reactions are treatable by removing the acrylics and avoiding reapplication.

But fear not, I’ll guide you on recognizing acrylic allergies, managing reactions, and avoiding future sensitivities. With some adjustments to products and manicure frequency, you can still enjoy gorgeous nails even if acrylics give you problems.

Can You Be Allergic To Acrylic Nails?

Yes, some individuals can develop an allergic reaction to components in acrylic nails, often manifesting as redness, itchiness, and swelling around the nail bed. If you experience these symptoms after getting acrylic nails, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional and consider alternative nail enhancement methods.

Allergic Reaction to Acrylic Nails

Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Acrylics

Based on my experience, here are the most common allergy symptoms to watch for with acrylic manicures:

  • Swelling or puffiness around the nails and fingertips
  • Red rash on the fingers, especially near the nail beds
  • Itching, from mild to severe, of the fingers and hands
  • Burning sensation on the nail plates or surrounding skin
  • Redness concentrated around the cuticles and nails

These reactions can develop during application, though sometimes take a few hours or days to appear. I’ve seen clients experience intense burning mid-manicure. Others don’t notice itching until the next morning.

While alarming, these symptoms don’t necessarily mean an acrylic allergy. They could also result from:

  • Bacterial or fungal nail infections
  • Use of expired or low-quality acrylic products
  • Too harsh of a primer or dehydrator used in prep
  • Excessive filing causing skin irritation

But recurring symptoms with every new set may indicate an acrylic allergy. Seek medical advice to be sure.

How to Treat an Allergic Reaction to Acrylic Nails?

An allergic reaction to acrylic nails can be distressing, but with the right approach, you can manage and alleviate the symptoms. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through:

1. Removal of Acrylic Nails

The first step to addressing any allergic reaction is to remove the potential allergen. For acrylic nails, this means safely taking off the enhancements:

  • Begin by soaking your nails in pure acetone. This softens the acrylic material.
  • Once the acrylic has softened, gently push the polish off using a metal cuticle pusher. Make sure to be gentle to avoid causing further irritation or damage to the nail bed.

2. Seek Medical Attention if Needed

If, after removing the acrylics, your symptoms persist or become more severe, it’s essential to seek medical advice. Persistent itching, swelling, or any sign of infection should be addressed by a healthcare professional.

3. Over-the-Counter Treatments

To alleviate the symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Apply over-the-counter corticosteroid skin creams. These can help reduce inflammation and soothe the affected areas.
  • Calamine lotion is another excellent option. It’s known for its cooling properties and can help reduce itchiness and discomfort.

Remember, while these steps can help treat allergic reactions, it’s crucial to identify the exact cause of your sensitivity. If acrylic nails are the culprit, consider alternative nail enhancement methods or products in the future. Your nails can still look fabulous without compromising your skin’s health.

How Long Do Acrylic Allergy Symptoms Last?

For mild cases, discomfort and swelling should subside within 12-24 hours after removing acrylics. Lingering redness may take a few days to fully clear.

More severe reactions can persist longer, even with the acrylics gone. This is when you definitely want to follow up with a doctor. They can provide steroids or antihistamines to help resolve lingering allergy symptoms.

If hands remain very inflamed, itchy, or tender more than 2-3 days after removal, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice. It’s important to get severe nail allergies under control.

Can an Acrylic Allergy Develop Suddenly?

Can an Acrylic Allergy Develop Suddenly?

While some people react to acrylics right away, it’s possible to suddenly develop a sensitivity even after years of wearing them with no issues.

This happens through repeated exposure to acrylic allergens over time. The monomer liquid is usually the culprit rather than the polymer powder. Extended contact can make the skin gradually become hypersensitive.

I recommend acrylic breaks every 4-6 weeks to prevent this cumulative effect. It gives your skin and nails time to fully detox between sets. Rotation also minimizes risk of surprise reactions.

When Will Symptoms of An Allergic Reaction To Acrylic Nails Appear?

When these symptoms appear will vary with each individual. They may appear during the application process or a few hours or even days afterward.

It really depends on your sensitivity to acrylic monomer.

I have seen clients whose skin and nails began to burn and itch during the application process. And I’ve had clients report within hours of getting their nails done that they developed a rash.

Can You Develop A Sudden Allergy To Acrylic Nails?

Yes, you may, over time, develop a reaction or sensitivity to acrylic nails that may appear suddenly.

Indeed, most reactions to acrylic nails are classified as follows: Irritant contact dermatitis. This is where your skin becomes sensitive to things like chemicals, usually from repeated exposure.

Most individuals develop contact dermatitis to the liquid acrylic monomer and not necessarily to the powder or beads themselves.

How To Avoid Becoming Allergic To Acrylic Nails?

1. Reduce the frequency with which you get your acrylic nails done

One of the best things you can do to avoid developing sensitivity to acrylic nails is to reduce the frequency with which you apply them.

I always recommend taking 2-3 week breaks after removing your acrylic. Now during the break you can use regular nail polish.

By taking breaks and reducing the frequency with which you apply acrylic nails, you can prevent your skin and nails from becoming sensitive to all the chemicals used.

2. Avoid putting acrylic liquid on your skin

As mentioned earlier, the development of contact dermatitis from acrylic nails comes from repeated exposure to acrylic fluid on your skin.

This can happen when the nail technician makes the beads too wet and allows the liquid monomer to get on your skin or if the brush accidentally touches your skin.

So make sure your nail tech is experienced and knows how to make good beads with the right powder to liquid ratio, is precise, and uses the right brush to avoid liquid getting on your skin.

3. Apply petroleum jelly to your cuticles

Another way to prevent acrylic liquid from getting on your skin is to apply a light coating of petroleum jelly to the skin around your nails.

The petroleum jelly will act as a barrier and prevent the monomer from reaching the skin. Just don’t apply Vaseline to the nails, this will prevent the acrylic from adhering well. Quote.

4. Avoid MMA products

Acrylic products containing MMA also known as methyl methacrylate, has a higher rate of allergic reactions. Instead, your acrylic liquid should be made with EMA.

So check your labels and ask your nail technician if they use MMA acrylic products. One way to spot MMA products is that they usually have a very intense fruity scent.

5. Wash your hands after doing your nails

Always wash your hands and fingers with soap and water after getting an acrylic manicure. This helps remove any acrylic product that may have come into contact with your skin.

6. Wear gloves if you apply the acrylic on someone else

Nail technicians should wear nitrile gloves when working with acrylic products. Gloves will help protect against sensitivity to the acrylic product.

So if you are applying acrylic nails to someone, protect yourself by wearing gloves.

Did you know you can also have acrylic nails and pedicures – click here to find out more.

7. Use alternatives

Acrylic nails aren’t the only way to get great manicures, you have other options. But the caveat is that most other alternatives such as nail polish or gel nails also contain acrylic ingredients.

Here are some options that are perfect if you are allergic or sensitive to acrylic nails:

  1. Snap nails – most nail press brands do not contain acrylic ingredients. Instead, they are made of plastic and use nail glue to stick them to your nails. Click here to view Press on nails against acrylic nails.
  2. Nail stickers and wraps – are usually made of vinyl and should be very safe if you are allergic to acrylic nails. Click here to learn more about nail stickers.
  3. Henna nails – uses an all-natural dye to coat your nails. You can click here to learn more about henna nail dyes.

Can an acrylic allergy go away?

No official studies have been conducted to indicate whether contact dermatitis or acrylic allergies can go away. But there have been cases where other types of allergies disappear.

But in my experience, once your skin develops a sensitivity to acrylic products, it won’t go away so easily.


Spotting and treating allergic reactions to acrylic nails is crucial for your overall nail health and comfort. By recognizing the signs early and following the appropriate steps for treatment, you can manage the symptoms effectively. To delve deeper into this topic and discover more nail care tips, don’t forget to check out the Villa Nails blog. Your nail well-being is our priority, and we’re here to provide you with the guidance you need!

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