I Found Out the Hard Way That I'm Allergic to Gel Nail Polish

This was originally going to be an article about my new DIY gel manicure kit. Now it's a cautionary tale.
Publish date:
October 19, 2016
allergies, gel manicures, nail polish, blisters, gel nail polish, burns, Maxus

The comment section of xoVain is one of my favorite places on the web. It’s sweet and positive, and above all, it's informative.

One day this past spring, I was complaining about how my nails just don’t like nail polish — whatever I put on there (cheap or expensive) and whatever weird trick I use to apply it, it just slips off within a day. It's in the comments that Hannah told me I could look into gel nail polish. I always thought those DIY lamps were really expensive, but that’s really not the case. For $50, I got myself a set including a lamp, a top and base coat, and a couple of colors.

My set arrived, and I got right to using it. There’s quite a learning curve to applying gel nail polish; it's way thicker than regular polish, and you really have to wrap it around the nails because it shrinks a little bit when you dry it. The drying process, however, is my favorite thing in the world. It literally only takes two minutes to dry!

My nails were perfectly red for 18 days, and I only re-applied when the polish had grown out too much.

That’s when the less thought-through process of my gel polish adventure started: How on earth am I going to remove this?

The most frequently recommended way of removing gel polish is to soak them in acetone. I soaked my nails in acetone and then redid my red manicure.

The next morning, my cuticles were swollen, and my fingers were covered in little red bumps. I figured it was an allergic reaction to the acetone and waited for it to heal. After a few days, the skin on my fingertips got really dry and peely, and later, the skin just fell off. I had chemical burns on my fingertips. Let me tell you — having blisters on your fingertips is never a convenience for anyone but if you’re a frequent computer-user with a craving for potato chips it’s really inconvenient (and just downright painful).

Everything healed, but it was not a pretty or easy process at all; there was puss coming out of my cuticles, and my nails beds were ruined. After three weeks, I wanted to re-do my nails because I really can’t stand the look of grown-out nails — remember, I had put on more red polish — however, I had no clue how to remove this stuff without acetone.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I resorted to the worst way of removing nail polish ever: I picked it off. My nails looked horrible and I quickly applied the red gel nail polish again.

The next morning I woke up with the same itchy fingers again.

As I'm typing this, I realize how ridiculous this sounds, but this went on for two months. First I figured it was the acetone; then I thought I’d just been sloppy with my application. I waited for my infection to heal again and I tried a couple more times. It’s really embarrassing how many times I had this bad reaction before I gave up.

I thought it was odd that I didn’t get an infection the first few times I applied gel nail polish, prior to the first removal, and I was desperate to figure out what I did wrong. A patch test later revealed that I was allergic to all of the gel polishes I owned, so that’s when I gave up. I figured I’d just been lucky the first few times.

At this point my nails were completely ruined to the point I was afraid to show my hands. After all, regular nail polish doesn’t even take on my healthy nails, let alone on my fried fingertips. There was no hiding my ugly fingertips.

That's when I got in contact with Dasha from Maxus Nails. Dasha gave me a few tips on how to get my nails back to their normal condition.

First, she stresses that one should never pick their nail polish off because by doing that, you’re also removing a top layer of your nails. She also recommends applying jojoba oil daily to help with dry cuticles. Dasha says it’s important to use the right tools; always make sure you file the top of the nail with a file above 180 grit, or use a buffer so you don’t disrupt the nail layers, which causes the nails to weaken.

Because I did everything Dasha told me not to, my nails are weak and thin AF. Luckily, Dasha wasn't mad at me and introduced me to her Maxus polishes. They're described as a “strengthening color hybrid.” The consistency is slightly thicker than regular polish, but thinner than gel polish.

I got about six days of wear out of Maxus polish, doing all the things I usually do. The only change I’ve made is that I now wear gloves when I wash my makeup brushes because Dasha told me to avoid too much water absorption. I’ve never gotten that many days of chip-free wear out of a non-gel nail polish before, so I’m really impressed.

Finally, Dasha says that many people don’t realize that improper nail care (by yourself or an unlicensed technician) can be very dangerous. Going to an improper technician can make you end up with a bad bacterial, fungal or even staph infection.

For me, it’s not that bad because I brought it onto myself, but I’m a believer that some things are just better left to the professionals, and gel nail polish is one of those things. If I’d just gotten a gel manicure once before, I’d have known that I was allergic and I wouldn’t have wasted my money and my entire summer on it.

From now on, I’m just going to stick with these Maxus colors, so my nails look pretty for the acceptable amount of time and I’ll never have to go through chemically burnt fingertips hell again.

  • Have you ever had a bad reaction to gel polish?
  • Are you allergic to any other beauty products?
  • Have you tried any Maxus polishes?