Get Clarity On Your Cosmetic Allergies!

Nail Polish Allergy Treatment in St. Louis, Missouri

Do you suspect you have an acrylic nail allergy? Learn about nail allergy symptoms and your treatment options. Dr. Sonia Cajigal is a board-certified allergist in St. Louis, Missouri that specializes in acrylic nail allergy and other nail cosmetic allergies. Contact us today to schedule your visit!

“Dr. Cajigal was friendly, professional, and informative. She took the time to explain the tests and what was going on with my allergies. She is so knowledgeable and really cared about how I was feeling. I would highly recommend this practice if you suffer from allergies and asthma.”

– Sue D, July 2020

Nail Polish Allergy Doctor Sonia Cajigal of St. Louis Family Allergy in St. Louis, Missouri
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About Nail Polish Allergy

About Nail Polish Allergy
Nail Polish Allergy Symptoms
Nail Polish Allergy Testing
Nail Polish Allergy Treatment
Nail-related allergies are most commonly caused by one of two ingredients: acrylate or tosylamide/formaldehyde resin.

Nail Acrylate Allergy

Acrylates are derived from acrylic acid and are commonly found in cosmetic nail preparations. Acrylate nail treatments are favored by many consumers for their resistance to chipping and scratching. Gels, dips, and nail wraps typically contain some form of allergenic acrylate, and can therefore trigger nail acrylate allergies. It is commonly referred to as an acrylic nail allergy.

Allergenic variants of acrylate have been identified in modern nail treatments, including 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA), 2-hydroxypropyl methacrylate, ethyl cyanoacrylate, 1,4-butanediol diacrylate, hydroxypropyl acrylate, 2-hydroxyethyl acrylate, ethyl cyanoacrylate, ethyl cyanoacrylate and isopropyl-2-cyanoacrylates. This is not an exhaustive list of allergy triggering acrylates.

Tosylamide/Formaldehyde Resin (TSFR) Allergy

On the other hand, tosylamide/formaldehyde resin (TSFR) allergy has become considerably less common, owing to the fact that the cosmetic industry has largely eliminated TSFR from their products. In fact, many nail polishes today are explicitly marketed as “TSFR-free,” but TSFR was very common until recently.
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Nail polish allergy causes

Nail Polish Allergy Symptoms

Nail polish allergy symptoms typically presents in the form of contact dermatitis (skin allergy) on the hands, fingers, or wrists where there has been direct contact with the allergenic substance. The skin may be red, bumpy, scaly, itchy or swollen. Though less common, dermatitis of the face, neck, abdomen, or thighs can also occur.

Because of ongoing exposure, nail technicians and other professions that work around acrylics tend to have significantly worse symptoms if they are allergic to acrylates. Common nail polish allergy symptoms are:

  • Pulpitis: inflammation of the fingertips
  • Cutaneous fissures: cracks in the skin
  • Subungual hyperkeratosis: chalky substance under the nails
  • Onycholysis: nail separates from the nail bed
  • Nail dystrophy: abnormal changes in shape, color, texture of fingernails
  • Paresthesia: burning, prickly, or numb sensation (rare)
  • Hives: rash of red welts (rare)
  • Upper respiratory tract symptoms, such as difficulty breathing (rare)

Nail Polish Allergy Testing

Although acrylate allergy is often identified because of nail cosmetics, it’s important to understand that many other medical, dental, and cosmetic products can also contain acrylates. Therefore, a proper diagnosis is critical to avoid unnecessary exposure in the future. A diagnosis begins with a detailed medical history. Dr. Cajigal will ask you questions about your contact with nail treatment products and other common skin allergens. If your experiences are consistent with nail acrylate allergy, then skin testing or patch testing is typically the next step.

Skin Testing

During a skin-prick test, small volumes of a suspected allergen (and controls) are placed on your skin and pricked with a sterile needle. After 20 minutes, the skin is re-examined for any bumps, which indicate an allergic reaction. Skin-prick testing may be useful when evaluating for a specific substance, but patch testing is often the preferred diagnostic method for nail cosmetic allergies, where one of many chemicals may be the culprit of your allergic reaction.

Patch Testing

Patch testing is a form of skin allergy testing that is used to screen several potential allergens at once, including nail polish or nail acrylate allergy. Very small chambers containing different potential allergens, such as HEMA and ethyl cyanoacrylate, are taped to the patient’s back for several days to see what skin reactions occur. Localized patches of contact dermatitis appear within 2 to 4 days, or even up to a week, if a skin allergy is present.
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Nail polish allergy symptoms

Nail Polish Allergy Treatment

Moisturizers and topical ointments can help to relieve skin allergy symptoms caused by nail cosmetics, but the best way to manage allergy symptoms is through avoidance. If you work around acrylates as a nail technician or in another profession, there are also special steps you can take to shield yourself from continuous exposure. Come see us at St. Louis Family Allergy to get personalized guidance from Dr. Cajigal.


If your diagnosis is confirmed, we typically recommend avoiding acrylic nail treatments altogether and look for an alternative allergy free nail polish. However, if you continue to use acrylic nail treatments, you should avoid skin exposure and direct contact with objects and surfaces contaminated with allergenic nail products.

Moisturizers and Topical Ointments

As with other skin allergies, symptoms can be relieved with regular use of moisturizer and topical medicines, such as topical steroids, calcineurin inhibitors, or phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitors.


If you work with acrylates as a nail technician or another profession, nitrile gloves are recommended to shield you from acrylate exposure while maintaining dexterity. Nitrile gloves are considered to be effective for 15 to 30 minutes of exposure, after which a glove change is recommended. If your work requires longer exposure to acrylics, industrial grade gloves, such as Silver Shield/4H gloves, may be effective but tend to limit dexterity. Dexterity can be maintained in this case by cutting off the fingertips of industrial grade gloves and wearing them underneath a standard nitrile glove.


[1] American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: [2] Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:
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St. Louis Family Allergy Google review score badge
"Dr. Cajigal was friendly, professional, and informative. She took the time to explain the tests and what was going on with my allergies. She is so knowledgeable and really cared about how I was feeling. I would highly recommend this practice if you suffer from allergies and asthma."

- Sue D, July 2020

“Dr Cajigal is a great listener. She trusts her patients instead of treating them as if they are not the experts of their own bodies. I really appreciate that (many doctors do not have that quality). She also immediately treats the symptoms instead of waiting to see if things clear. I use her for my children and myself. We have never left her office feeling as if it was a waste of time.”

– Stephanie, August 2020

"Great Allergist!"

- Ann H, December 2018

"She is the best."

- Stephen W, June 2020

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