How I Got a Painful Allergic Reaction to Gel Polish From a UV Nail Lamp

My name is Brooke and my love for nails goes way back to when I was a little girl. 

My passion for nails has prompted me to raise awareness about the proper use of UV lamps in curing your gel nails so you can avoid getting a severe allergic reaction to gel polish and gel nail products as I did.

I want to save other people from the pain and suffering that I went through from developing contact dermatitis because of a magic tip gel kit with incomplete and incorrect gel manicure curing instructions.

Here’s my story. 

In 2022, I’ve began sharing my passion for nails on TikTok. I post all sorts of nail tips and tricks on the platform.

Soon after, doors in the nail world began opening. I started working with some big brands as well as connecting with amazing people in the nail world.

Here’s where things went sideways. 

One brand, in particular, sent me a PR package. I was very excited to try it because it was a magic tip gel kit that contained an assortment of products, from gel extension tips to gel polish and a UV lamp.

The magic tip gel kit came with a very simple set of instructions, see the photo below.

allergic reaction to gel polish
Instructions included in the magic tip gel kit

I followed the directions in the kit and loved it so much that I started using it for every manicure that I did. 

But after roughly four months of use, I noticed my fingers were starting to crack, then peel, and sometimes even bleed. 

It was horrible. 

I dove into researching what could possibly be causing this to happen and after narrowing everything down based on my symptoms, I realized I had developed contact dermatitis. 

Contact dermatitis is a type of skin inflammation that happens when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen.

allergic reaction to gel polish
My allergic reaction to gel polish

Overexposure or prolonged exposure to certain chemicals can also cause contact dermatitis. 

In the case of nails, this can happen if your skin is exposed to uncured gel polish for prolonged periods of time. 

I immediately thought that this is what had happened and that my UV lamp which I had been using to cure my nails was underpowered. UV lamps used to cure a gel manicure needs to be 48 watts to ensure a full cure. The lamp that was included in the kit I received turned out to be only 5 watts!

So I ordered a 48-watt SunUV lamp right away hoping it would solve my problems.

It didn’t. 

My fingers looked worse than before so I made an appointment to see a dermatologist. When I asked the doctor why the magic tip gel kit would be doing this to my fingers he said it was probably because one of the products included in the kit contained hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA). 

HEMA is a chemical used in industrial and medical applications like coatings, adhesives and dental materials, ophthalmic materials, contact lenses, and tissue engineering.

It’s also used in gel nail polish and can cause an allergic reaction if the gel polish is not cured or dried all the way!

Meaning, gel polish needs to be under a UV lamp of 48 watts for a full 60-90 second cycle per coat.

allergic reaction to gel polish
A 48-watt UV lamp should be used to cure gel nails and help prevent an allergic reaction to gel polish

Keep in mind, it took 4 months for my fingers to develop an allergic reaction to gel polish! This is different for everyone, it could take more or less time for an allergic reaction to show up depending on the length of exposure and your skin type.

The dermatologist I saw ended up prescribing me Clobetasol ointment and I started looking for some HEMA-free products thinking that this would solve the issue.

A different brand on TikTok reached out to me and sent me some HEMA-free products, but unfortunately, the contact dermatitis persisted.

Apparently, there is something else in gel products that causes my skin to react. You can get tested by a dermatologist and find out exactly what you are allergic to, for me, the doctor explained what I might be allergic to but I didn’t do any testing. 

I will now always have an allergic reaction to gel polish and any type of gel nail product. 

For a while, I blamed myself. I felt broken and defeated. It seemed everything that I loved was taken away from me and I cried. It seemed like my nail career was over before it even got started.

If I had known from the beginning that I needed a specific lamp in order to get the proper cure, this would have never happened. There was nothing included in the directions about needing a specific wattage lamp or that the lamp that came in the kit wouldn’t give me a full cure. 

A lot of companies are out there promoting magic tip gel kit products for “at-home easy nails” and selling these products to the DIY community without warning. I feel like it’s my responsibility to keep the community informed about my experience with these products.

The good news is that as long as I stay away from gel I shouldn’t experience any symptoms. So I have turned my attention to dip powder nails.

allergic reaction to gel polish

If you’re looking for gel alternatives, one of my favorite dip powder companies is Tundra Dips. They have amazing dip products and customer service, you can’t go wrong with them. Tundra Dips products are super beginner friendly, if you want to learn how to do your nails at home and on a budget go check out

Another company I absolutely love is Sparkle and Co. Both are great companies, and great alternatives to gel nails.

My journey hasn’t been easy but I learned so much and my love for nails has made it all worth it.

If you want to follow me on social, you can find me @BrookeMcinerney on Instagram and at Brooke Mcinerney on TikTok. I have lots of tips, tricks, and tutorials so definitely don’t forget to check it out!