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Oil Penetration and Allergies

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First, let me summarise the results of recent studies that Marian mentions in this Blog. Those studies have brought truly breakthrough news and may have an impact on several industries including the nail industry from several standpoints, especially when it comes to oil penetration and allergies. Here is the most important conclusion amongst others we can make from the studies:

It has been shown that the moisturisers (lotions and oils) that are widely used in baby skincare lead to the development of food allergy, atopic dermatitis, and even asthma in the future life of an infant if they are used frequently.

This sounds too scary, doesn’t it? However, let’s get started to sort things out to understand what is going on.

The phenomenon mentioned in the first notion occurs because oils, especially those natural oils like olive, sunflower, and many others, may partly disrupt the skin barriers and potentiate the permeation of many compounds including allergens. The oils or lipid compounds can dissolve the allergenic substances and make them available to the immune cells in our skin. For instance, trace neglectable amounts of milkshakes or mixtures for infants can be left on a baby’s skin after contact with parents’ hands. Then, when we apply the moisturizer, its lipid components encourage the penetration of them into the baby’s skin. If the immune cells recognize the food components to be allergic, the reaction begins, and allergy develops immediately or many years after when a kid becomes an adult. That is why, one of the authors openly declares the following motto: “Olive oil is for food, not for skincare”, despite the current fashion for so-called ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ products.

The data can be logically applied to our salon services because a nail technician often deals with potentially allergic substances such as uncured gels or ‘tacky residue’. Thus, the tacky residue being mixed with the oily components of the cosmetic products, and easily penetrate the skin. It is important to note, that the components of nail products are not allergens themselves. True allergens are always proteins. The components of UV gels, nail polishes, or acrylics are not proteins. Now you can ask – Why are they considered to be potential allergens then? The keyword here is ‘potential’. These substances that can be potentially harmful to your skin have their own name – let me introduce them – haptens. Haptens are substances of different chemical classes. They usually have a small molecular mass and can penetrate the skin barriers. They are not considered allergens unless they come into reaction with our own proteins that are found in our skin. In this case, they form the compound that becomes an allergen for us. Most of the haptens are ‘oil-loving’ molecules, which means that they can be dissolved in oils, which in turn helps them to penetrate the skin where they meet the lipid bilayers of our own Stratum Corneum and mix with them too.

The good news is that our skin is not a static structure or just a container that contains some mixtures. It has its structure, and the structure defines the health of our skin. The skin’s major responsibility is to protect us, and it means that all the skin structures do their best to prevent the permeation of almost all the outer substances, even those that are considered ‘good for us’. Moreover, the human skin is an ever-changing organ, and it strives to free our body from harmful or unnecessary substances by pushing out old layers and cells. The latter are just removed from the surface of the skin. It helps to clean up the space.

On the other hand, we have to learn that cosmetic products may have an impact on very important structures in the stratum corneum. The most important part of those structures is the lipids/water ratio (and water-retaining substances, which are known as the natural moisturising factor). These two components create the optimal consistency of our skin, where the essential lipids are a key factor since they create the compact barrier. When it becomes too thick the skin is getting scaly and dry. When those lipids become too liquid, the skin becomes too prone to inflammation due to the partially disrupted barriers.

What is important for us and our work?

1) The frequent use of moisturisers can be harmful. Then the next question – what is ‘frequent’ use? The answer to the question – use your moisturiser 1-2 times a day. If you have symptoms of xerotic skin, use the special lotions, and as professionals don’t blindly follow the marketing claims. Read the list of ingredients.

2) Oils. It is obvious, that we use cuticle oils to prevent water evaporation from the area that we worked on because some procedures (especially those that are well known as harmful – abrasions, solvents, peelings, etc.) lead to water loss and dryness. Dryness is the first signal of disrupted skin barriers and the first step of possible skin inflammation. Always use the cuticle oils after you wash your hands with soap or liquid soap.

3) When your service is done and the next perfect set of beautiful nails is created, ask your client to wash their hands with soap before you apply a lotion, cream, or any other moisturiser to avoid the potential allergy outbreak.

4) If you work with a ‘tacky layer’, thoroughly remove it out first with acetone or isopropyl alcohol, and then always wash with soap before your next step in service.

5) Never touch skin with a product, and keep your brush and other utensils clean even if you work in gloves.

6) If you feel that your regular moisturiser causes some dryness, change it with some more advanced formula and ingredients. Sometimes a moisturizer might contain something like Vaseline and or paraffin – these are great when needing to retain moisture – It’s possible that moisture retention is not enough. A moisturizer containing 10% Urea might be more effective as on top of moisturizing it also helps the skin retain the moisture. Urea is considered a gentle ingredient and suitable for sensitive skin.

7) Avoid products with a huge load of essential oils, fragrances, and colorants – it will help to avoid allergy outbreaks.
Fragrances and or colorants can be skin irritants. Check the labels of the products you choose. Some hand lotions contain almond oil – it sounds harmless enough but, if you are allergic to nuts, this will likely cause skin irritation. The same goes for citrus: a natural fruit, but not good for skin if you have a citrus oil. If a nail oil comes in 5 different colors, be aware that the colors may be created by additives, natural or man-made, that could cause skin irritation. In much the same way, some essential oils can be too strong for sensitive skin if they are not diluted in the formula. Take care to know your skin type and read the label of the product advised to you.

8) Avoid products that are advertised as ‘natural’ – that doesn’t mean they are safer. Often, most of them are considered more allergenic, especially for vulnerable skin types. Studies confirm this notion.

This seems like a paradox – but natural is not always better. A bee is an important creature in nature but also in our food chain. Some people have allergic reactions to bee stings. Even though it’s a natural creature, a bee could kill us.
Cosmetic products need to be created somewhere, bottled somewhere, shipped somewhere, and sold somewhere. Getting the product from A to B may take a few months, and an amazing product may need an artificial stabilizer to keep it in good condition until the end client purchases it. If the “all-natural” product was without a preservative, we might not be able to use it.

Be aware of what you buy and the ingredients in it, make sure you understand your skin type, and don’t believe crazy marketing claims. Keep thinking and asking questions, and you will always make the right choice.

In the blogs on the NailKnowledge website we do our best to keep you thinking, and keep you informed.

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