the fno allergy survey

The Federation of Nail Professionals Allergy Survey

A large part of the nail sector is aware of the ‘allergy epidemic’ that we and our clients are suffering from. (Surprisingly, there are still many that are not aware of it).

Acrylate-based nail coatings have been available and used since, at least, the late ’70s. There were, of course, incidences of allergies that will naturally occur in some people. Plus the occasional incidence due to ‘overexposure’ (a situation that should be included in EVERY training course for beginners and how to avoid it). We would expect these to be lower than 10% for all users. This has been the case up until around the mid 2010s. Then………..wow!

The British Association of Dermatologists identified the situation in 2018, mostly due to the rise in allergies in consumers of retail UV cured products (aka UV gel polish). This situation had, of course, spilled over into the professional sector. Nail professionals and their clients were experiencing unusual and, often, very severe symptoms. The symptoms were puzzling but, with some recent research, the situation is becoming clearer.

(There is a free video on some of this research and the mechanics of how allergies happen on www.nailknowledge.org)

The Federation of Nail Professionals is in many conversations at Government level to look at the type of products that are causing problems. Trading Standards have a lot of reported information on unwanted symptoms. 

However, anecdotal information is one thing but the authorities need ‘numbers’! With this in mind, #thefeds decided to create an ‘allergy survey’ to understand, in some way, the numbers that allergies are happening to nail pros and their clients. We ran this during the month of February, and shared it as widely as we could. We had around 600 participants in total (although not all answered all questions).

The survey was anonymous and the full report has been sent to the Office of Product Safety and Standards (part of BEIS). Due to funds available, #thefeds were unable to create a professional survey and report, so what we have is as best as we could manage.

The biggest problem is the fact that so few with symptoms were able to get a dermatological patch test, as the NHS waiting list is 12-24 months, and a private consultation costs several £100’s. 

The pandemic situation made matters worse. But I must emphasize that the problem was pre-pandemic.

With the difficulty of discovering exactly what ingredients were causing the problems (plus a disastrous lack of education and understanding), so many kept trying different brands that actually just exacerbated the problem.

However, I am able to share a lot of our findings. It isn’t easy reading!! 

We asked many questions, firstly about nail pros and then about their clients. These are some of the results:

From 584 responses 28% have experienced unwanted reactions.
But only 12% have received dermatological results (from 313 responses).

This mostly is due to either lack of availability, private costs, or no inclination or time! This also means that allergic reactions are, largely, self-diagnosed!! Not only that, there is no information on exactly which ingredient/s are the cause!  How can anyone without that diagnosis know what the way forward is? Trying out different brands is NOT the answer. 

The time it took to exhibit an unwanted reaction is higher between less than 6 months and 6-12 months! 49% fell into this bracket. This demonstrates how quickly this can happen!  18% took over 2 years and 15% over 5 years.

According to our survey, 74% used a matching UV lamp. This is a good result. However, it must be said that those taking the survey are mostly those that care about their career and clients, and are well educated. There are so many that are unreachable or are in total denial that matching systems MUST be used.

From the messages I receive, it is clear that both regulated and accredited courses have teachers who are also in denial about this important fact! (The new NOS addresses this massive issue).

Another interesting response is that, out of 247 responses, a massive 64% have changed brands! But have they changed to a brand that suits them and their clients? Hypoallergenic is good but there is no guarantee that no allergies will occur.

Of 487 responses, it is half that uses a HEMA-free brand. HEMA is NOT the ‘evil child’! It is the % that is key! BUT 89% have not experienced any unwanted reactions to HEMA free (323 responses).

Now, to the clients. A massive 38% have experienced unwanted reactions!! (from 591 responses) Surely, that is 30% too many and, potentially, 38% of lost clients! Unfortunately, many of those have not had patch tests.

With regard to ‘home use’ or DIY’ers, from 314 responses, 24% have been those clients.

As with nail professionals, the length of time when clients showed symptoms, the majority (48%) were between 0 and 12 months.

There are a lot of responses on what symptoms have been exhibited. But in the absence of medically diagnosed symptoms, the majority are ‘recognised’ rather than diagnosed. Suffice to say that onycholysis, hyperkeratosis, irritated skin, blistered, itchy, dry, and cracked skin are the most common. Usually more than one of these together. The extreme reactions have been a totally destroyed nail plate.

What is such a shame is that 63% (265 responses) have not contacted the brand. 94% (286 responses) have not contacted any authority. It would appear that many have read many social media posts and realised that not much support will come from this action. Unfortunately, it also means that the authorities have no idea of the extent of the problem to allow them to act!

From another recent research project (that is only available to the authorities)  the conclusion is that:

– Isobornyl Acrylate (IBOA) and Hydroxymethyl Methacrylate (HEMA) in high percentages are the most common problems in the ingredients.

– Applying a coating too thickly causes an undercuring of the product.

– Using a mismatched UV lamp can cause undercuring.

– A high percentage of monomers has been proved to cause ‘leeching’ during the wearing of a coating if undercured. (Leeching is where unreacted monomers in the coating are escaping the coating onto the skin during normal wear, causing unwanted reactions.)

In conclusion, this epidemic can be pinpointed to a ‘perfect storm’ of imports (in the mid 2010s) that have a high percentage of monomers in their formulas PLUS a total lack of good education with the proliferation of ‘not fit for purpose’ short courses. 

So many of these short courses are NOT qualifications. At best they are CPD (Continued Personal Development) that should follow a robust beginner course, whether regulated or accredited. Insurance underwriters and their brokers have made the whole situation much worse by purporting to insure the ‘CPD’ courses as ‘qualifications’ but not supporting claimants if needed. A few have blatantly admitted that, while people pay them, they will continue with this totally unethical practice.

Regulations for our sector WILL be coming in! It will take a while but it will involve regulated qualifications. Let us hope, by that time, the regulated qualifications Awarding Organisations will get their “houses in order” and provide qualifications that the sector can be confident in. They are NOT there yet!

The FNP is working tirelessly to make sure all of this will be ‘fit fr purpose’ for our sector. But we do need you to join! AND brands to financially support us! Do you want an industry in 10 years’ time??

This report deals with products and allergies. Please keep your eyes open for a video that will deal with the personal aspect of this situation. Those that have experienced mental health problems, lost their careers and £1000’s. Plus the perspective of a client. All of these interviews will be assessed by a medical health practitioner to explain the personal impact and how to deal with it. It isn’t all about the money. There are real people in real situations that are suffering from this situation.

Thank you for reading. These are all facts, and no opinions are involved.

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