HEMA in Gels and UV/LED Gel Polishes. What It Does and Is It Safe?


It would be hard to find a nail art fan who has never heard the term “HEMA” or “HEMA FREE.” As the cosmetics industry develops, more and more diverse products appear on the market, and consumers are becoming more and more aware. They are no longer interested only in the product’s smell, consistency, capacity and pigmentation but also in its composition and how it affects the skin, hair and nails. They want to know what is inside the cosmetic they just bought, or rather, what it does not contain. So, what exactly is HEMA mentioned in the title and why its presence (or its lack) has caused such a big commotion?

HEMA – troublesome acrylate?

        HEMA (hydroxyethylmethacrylate) is an acrylate monomer, in other words, a derivative of acrylic acid. HEMA is a light-curing monomer, which means that it undergoes a reaction under UV/LED light and transforms into a polymer – a chemical substance – one of the building blocks of contact lenses, dental fillings, as well as, gel polishes and gels. Thanks to its ability to photo-cure and form a spatial polymer network, HEMA has become a very popular ingredient in nail art products. It mainly serves a binding function, namely, it helps the particles of gel polish to connect with each other, making the individual layers to exhibit good adhesion properties, durability and mechanical resistance. Moreover, it also has a conditioning and antistatic effect – it helps to eliminate static buildup.

Despite its many obvious advantages, HEMA also carries potential hazards. Chemically, it is classified as a hapten, which is a substance of low molecular weight. It means that when it comes into contact with the skin, it can easily penetrate its hydrolipidic barrier and cause irritation, rash or even painful blisters. Does it mean that we should be afraid of using traditional gels and gel polishes? Sebastian Grzyb, Cosmetic Chemist Dr., Rector of the University of Engineering and Health in Warsaw, explains: "Allergy is caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system, which manifests itself in a tendency to overreact to external factors that normally do not cause any reaction in healthy people. With regard to HEMA, after analyses and studies, it was concluded that when used in light-curing gel polishes it poses a low risk of sensitization, and in order to avoid the risk of allergy, the preparation should only be applied to the nail plate, without getting in contact with the skin.” Thus, the observations of scientists show that in the case of a healthy person, without a known allergy to HEMA, this compound is not likely to cause any adverse reaction.

Is HEMA legal? What does the European Union law say about it?

        HEMA acrylate, despite the media hype it has caused in recent years, is a completely legal substance. Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council on cosmetic products states that HEMA is not banned or restricted. However, there is a provision in the legislation that aims to provide additional protection for consumers. According to it, any nail art product containing HEMA in its formulation must be labeled with two warnings: “For professional use only" and "May cause allergic reaction."

Besides, it should be remembered that all cosmetics and raw materials have to be tested by Safety Assessors before they can be placed on the market. Their role is to assess safety of the product by analyzing its composition and results of detailed tests carried out on the finished cosmetic. Sebastian Grzyb, Cosmetic Chemist Dr., points out that: "Any concerns about the potential health risks, negative effects on the skin or nails caused by this type of substance [HEMA author's note] may only result from lack of information or inadequate understanding of the structure, properties, action of chemical compounds and their use as cosmetic raw materials. Moreover, it is worth remembering that the potential risk associated with the use of not only this but also many other substances present in cosmetics, may result from improperly performed nail art procedure. In this case, it is crucial to know the product's specification and how it reacts during the process, as well as, be properly educated about personal protective equipment."

SoPRO – innovative solution among gel polishes

        What if our skin and nail plate are sensitive to HEMA acrylate, but we don’t want to give up on gel polish manicure? SoPRO from Silcare is the first Polish line of nail art products with HEMA-FREE formulation. The base coat, gel polish in 20 color versions, top coat and manicure oil allow to create a professional, safe and spectacular nail stylization. The products have been enriched with the nourishing NailHeroTM complex and equipped with a precise half-round brush – designed for the user’s comfort.


Discover a manicure that is safe for every nail plate thanks to SoPRO line!