This story begins in the Target beauty section, as so many good tales often do. I’ve seen the Le Mini Macaron Gel Kit on TikTok a lot recently, so I admit I was #influenced and didn’t do much actual research before picking it up in the Cherry Red shade. I mean, who would suspect a LED lamp shaped like a macaron could be the source of beauty industry contention?

After I got home, ripped open the package, tried the system out on one nail, and immediately sent a photo to my best friend declaring this was my new obsession and the cure (no pun intended) to each one of my problems, I decided to do my due diligence and actually look more into this simplified kit. It seemed too good to be true, and (surprise!) it was.

My research started with finding the recent backlash on the curing-press-ons-with-gel trend. Nail industry experts on TikTok explained LED lamps cannot penetrate through opaque press-ons, leaving uncured gel touching the nail’s surface. Amber from @amberthenailwhisperer warned that, over time, this could cause an allergy to gel — meaning the wearer would never be able to use gel again.

This allergy is an example of contact dermatitis. You can see an example of what this looks like here, but warning: it ain’t pretty. You can get this sort of dermatitis from any contact with uncured gel, meaning that while it is more likely, it’s not exclusive to at-home manicures.

Doing a bit of research, I learned 24 watts is the minimum necessary to properly cure gel nails. According to Le Mini Macaron’s FAQ page, their mini LED lamps are 3W. A measly three watts! After reading this, I promptly took off my gel manicure and found a sticky patch of uncured gel silently taunting me. Now imagine that uncured gel sits there for a few weeks, absorbing into your porous nail plate!

I must postface this by saying I followed the instructions perfectly (I am a Virgo sun and moon, after all). While the lamp automatically cuts off after 30 seconds, letting you know your fingers are allegedly done baking, I left them in there longer for good measure. I applied thin coats of the polish, too — pinky promise! These extra steps were for naught, and here I am with bare fingers, scared that one morning, I’ll wake up with crocodile hands.

Going forward, I’m going to invest in a higher-wattage lamp but continue to use my Le Mini Macaron gels. I mean, look at how perfect the green in this kit is. For you, dear reader, let this serve as a warning against low-wattage lamps and a testament to the aphorism “knowledge is power.” This knowledge might just save you from a lifelong gel nail allergy.

Tips for avoiding a gel allergy

  1. Don’t use gel with opaque press-ons. Regular nail glue will suffice.
  2. Use a strong enough lamp.  [Editor’s note: This is the lamp I use. It packs a robust 220 watts.]
  3. If you accidentally get polish on your skin while painting, promptly clean it off with a brush soaked in acetone.
  4. If you experience itching, swelling, or discomfort after a manicure (of any kind, really), take it off post haste.

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