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Understand HEMA in the Nail Industry

The Role of HEMA in the Nail Industry

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Welcome to our mini lesson on HEMA in the nail industry!

This lesson is aimed at all nail professionals, from beginners to advanced technicians, as well as nail enthusiasts who want to learn more about this important ingredient in nail products. Our goal is to explain the basics of HEMA without overwhelming you with technical jargon, so that you can better understand its properties, benefits, and potential risks.

We’ll cover what HEMA is, the chemistry behind it, its properties and benefits, examples of nail products that contain HEMA, and potential safety concerns related to its use. 

So what is HEMA? 

HEMA or Hydroxyethyl Methacrylate (CAS# 868-77-9), is a monomer or simply put, a liquid ingredient that’s commonly used in the nail industry to create strong, durable and flexible nail products.

It works by bonding well with other ingredients in the product and with your natural nails. (HEMA adheres as well to a nail plate containing water or where surface water is present as a dry well prepped nail plate)

When the photo initiators in the product are exposed to UVA energy HEMA forms long polymer chains of molecules, which help create a strong and flexible solid material.

This means that when you apply a product with HEMA, it can create a smooth and even surface that’s less likely to chip or break. HEMA can also help the product stick and adhere better to your natural nails and resist lifting.
HEMA is a known allergen but when used correctly and professionally, it is safe at or below the recommended percentage of 35%. 

Some examples of nail products that might contain HEMA include acrylic powders and liquids, gel polishes, and nail primers.

These products are made up of a mixture of different ingredients, including pigments, fragrances, and other additives, along with HEMA.

Understanding the Risks and Safety Precautions of HEMA Use in Nail Products

While HEMA is an important ingredient in many nail products, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks associated with its use. Exposure to incorrect use of HEMA can lead to skin irritation, allergic reactions, and other health problems.

To minimize the risk of exposure for both you and your client, it’s important to follow proper safety precautions when working with all nail products. This includes wearing gloves, working in a well-ventilated area, and avoiding skin contact at all times. Additionally, it is advisable to ensure that the percentage of HEMA (hydroxyethyl methacrylate) in the products is 30% or, preferably, lower.

If you or your clients experience any signs of irritation or allergic reaction from using HEMA containing products, such as redness, swelling, blisters or itching, stop using the product immediately and seek medical attention if necessary.

Regulatory guidelines related to HEMA use in nail products vary by country and region. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates nail products and sets guidelines for the safe use of ingredients like hema. In Europe and the united kingdom, they have also established guidelines for the safe use of HEMA in nail products. Products containing HEMA are restricted to professional use only.

As a nail technician, it’s important to stay up-to-date with regulatory guidelines and to use HEMA containing products safely and responsibly. By following proper safety precautions and using products according to manufacturer instructions, you can help minimize the risk of exposure and keep yourself and your clients safe.

HEMA-Free Claims and the Presence of Di-HEMA

If a product is advertised as HEMA free, why does the label say that it contains Di-HEMA?
This is a question we get asked a lot on NailKnowledge. So we will address it here with an example to put it into context.
If a product contains DI-HEMA but is advertised as HEMA-FREE, it is because DI-HEMA is a similar ingredient but is structurally different from HEMA.

However, it’s important to note that some individuals who are sensitive or allergic to HEMA may also have a reaction to DI-HEMA, as it is still a type of methacrylate. So, it’s always important to read product labels carefully before using any new product, especially if you have a history of skin allergies or sensitivities.  There are many HEMA free products available on the market but be aware, if an individual develops an allergy to HEMA, it is very likely they are also allergic to other monomers. The only way of knowing is to have a dermatological patch test to identify the exact ingredient to avoid.

There are many HEMA free products available on the market but be aware, if an individual develops an allergy to HEMA, it is very likely they are also allergic to other monomers. The only way of knowing is to have a dermatological patch test to identify the exact ingredient to avoid.

Drawing Parallels: Understanding HEMA and Di-HEMA

An example to compare the relationship between HEMA and DI-HEMA could be comparing the difference between skimmed milk and whole milk. Although both are types of milk, they have different properties and are produced differently.

Skimmed milk is produced by removing the fat content from whole milk, while whole milk contains all the fat that naturally occurs in milk. While both types of milk are white and liquid, they have different nutritional profiles and can be used differently in cooking and baking.

Similarly, while DI-HEMA is chemically related to HEMA, they are different ingredients with different properties and functions. It’s important to read product labels carefully and understand the specific ingredients included in a product before using it, just like it’s important to understand the difference between skimmed milk and whole milk when cooking or baking.

Wrapping Up: Understanding HEMA & An Invitation to Dive Deeper

That concludes our mini lesson on HEMA, in the nail industry. We hope you found this information helpful in understanding the basics of this important ingredient in nail products.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into the science behind nail products, we invite you to check out our “Essential Nail Professional” course. This course provides a more comprehensive exploration of the chemistry behind nail products, including the role of monomers, polymers, and HEMA. By enrolling in this course, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the products you use every day and how to use them safely and effectively.

Thank you for learning with Nail Knowledge and we look forward to seeing you online real soon!

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