How to do nail art without risks?

White, fuchsia, with diamonds… Decorating your nails is a very popular ritual among young women! But the products used in nail art can be harmful to the health of the nails, cause allergic reactions or burns. So, how to let yourself be seduced without taking risks? Experts answer us.

Nail art is booming in France. Whether it is applying false nails in gel or resin , or even semi-permanent varnish, the fashion is for decorated nails . But this practice can also carry risks. Here are some points to pay attention to.

What is nail art?

Nail art is the art of decorating nails. “We talk about nail art when there are several colors, and even more so when objects ( like small rhinestones) are added. The diversity of colors is endless, and the nail has become a new way to express your personality and creativity . Nail polish is a fashion accessory that you associate with your bag, your jewelry or your shoes,” explains Elsa Deslandes, nail artist. 

Nail art in the same spirit as tattooing

For the philosopher Bernard Andrieu, nail art is in the same spirit as tattooing. “It is first and foremost  a way of expressing one’s belonging to a community . But the hand, and even more so the nails, is also the end of the body which is used to enter into contact with others. The symbolism is strong. With nail art, I see a trend of identity , but at the same time 'fun' and temporary, without long-lasting risk as can be the case with tattoos.

Health-wise, putting varnish on natural nails does not pose a major problem. Of course, nail polish remover can be drying. It is  the application of false nails which is especially damaging. In fact, to apply (or remove) gel or resin, you must file the surface. Some institutes even use small sanders.

Use gel, less toxic than resin

Nail art is generally practiced on false nails (called nail prostheses ) made of gel , resin or preformed capsules , with glue to attach them.

Substances classified as carcinogenic and endocrine disruptors

According to the 2017 study by the National Health Safety Agency (ANSES), directed by Dominique Brunet: “there is multiple chemical exposure with 696 substances identified in the composition of the products used or in work atmospheres, including 60 in the highest hazard class, including agents classified as carcinogenic , mutagenic and toxic for reproduction, sensitizers and/or listed on a list of potential endocrine disruptors. Among these 60 substances, 30 are classified as skin sensitizers and 2 as respiratory sensitizers, 15 are classified as carcinogenic and 18 belong to lists of potential endocrine disruptors .

Methacrylates, substances that can cause allergies

Among the most problematic, methacrylates .

The latter allow you to obtain a plasticized appearance, but can penetrate the epidermis and cause allergic reactions, which generally appear immediately. Dr. Marie Jourdan, dermatologist.

“You just need to stop any pose for the allergy to disappear.” As they are very volatile molecules, they can also cause irritation to the eyes or mucous membranes.

Conclusion ? According to Dominique Brunet, “the gel technique, compared to the resin technique, seems less emissive in methacrylates , which are the compounds mainly responsible for the contact allergy dermatitis recorded in these professionals”. New processes such as Building sensitive +  or Biab gel exclude or reduce the level of methacrylates, which makes them a good alternative. The best is of course to do without it, and to apply the varnish directly to the bare nail, which minimizes chemical emissions.

Opt for a cleaner varnish to reduce the risks

The semi-permanent varnishes on which nail art decorations are placed can also contain chemical substances to be avoided, as allergenic and toxic as those in nail prostheses.

Moreover, many are prohibited from sale to the general public , but last June, the General Directorate for Competition, Consumption and Fraud Repression (DGGCRF), concluded that the results were not very brilliant, noting that "the varnishes Semi-permanent products reserved for professional use are widely marketed to individuals, including in supermarkets and hypermarkets.

As a parade, we opt for classic varnishes or new formulas for professionals (for example, Marinho Paris or Odass), which offer semi-permanent without controversial substances, such as toluene, xylene, benzophenone or methacrylate.


Other tips for practicing nail art without risks

We say no to mechanical sanding

Whether to smooth the nail or to remove layers of varnish that do not come off with the nail polish remover, the sanding machine is very popular in institutes. “However, this practice weakens keratin, rich in amino acids. The nails then become  soft and brittle  ,” warns Marie Jourdan.

We protect ourselves from UV

The lamps allow varnishes to harden to obtain a plastic film with a gel-like appearance, greater resistance and long durability. The problem ? 

These lamps, including LEDs, send ultraviolet rays. Like those from the sun, they can lead to premature aging, spots and skin cancers. Dr. Jourdan

We change the solvent

The most practiced technique consists of wrapping the fingers in aluminum with cotton soaked in acetone. “A very corrosive and drying solvent, which damages the nail plate  ,” says Dr. Jourdan. It can be replaced by acetate , less powerful, by protecting the fingertips with a fatty substance, such as oil. At the end, you clean your hands with soap and water, then dry them.

How to choose your nail art practitioner?

No qualifying training is required to practice the profession of nail prosthetist.

To be sure that your practitioner has the required skills, the ideal is:

  • That she holds a diploma recognized by the State (CAP beautician, pro aesthetic baccalaureate, BTS aesthetic-cosmetic, etc.) – which gives her the ability to take care of nails;
  • Combined with nail technician training delivering a certificate or professional title registered in the National Directory of Professional Certifications (RNCP). These are guarantees of quality.

In short

  • We space out the nail art sessions;
  • We check the training of the practitioner;
  • Nail art is attempted directly on the nails, without prosthetics, which reduces the number of layers and limits damage to the nails;
  • We are turning to new, more virtuous ranges.