What is HEMA in Nail Polish?

When picking out the right nail polish to use for your next mani-pedi, you have a lot of factors to consider. Should you choose a striking red or a cloudy blue? Sleek or matte? Shimmer or no shimmer?

With all these questions running through your head, one crucial consideration becomes easy to forget—are these ingredients safe to use on my skin?

Unfortunately, some chemicals that are commonly used in the nail polish industry can pose dangers to our well-being. One of those ingredients is called HEMA. In this article, we’ll explain what HEMA is, why health risks are associated with it, and how you can still achieve a dazzling mani-pedi safely by opting for HEMA-free polish. 

Introduction to HEMA in Gel Nail Polish

If horror stories about gel nail polish allergies have ever caught your attention, leading you to wonder, what is HEMA in nail polish, you're in the right place.

HEMA is one of the many ingredients that gel nail polish manufacturers often mix into their products to give them special properties. 

In particular, HEMA helps gel nail polish with:

  • Adhesion
  • Durability
  • Fluidity

For these reasons, HEMA has been a staple of gel nail products for a long time. 

Explaining HEMA: A Chemical Overview

HEMA is an acronym for a light-curing methacrylic monomer known as 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate,  and this ingredient is used in far more products than just gel nail polish. 

For instance, it’s commonly utilized by1:

  • Dentists
  • Orthopedic surgeons
  • 3D printers

Although this monomer certainly has some powerful properties, many people have discovered that it doesn’t bode well with their bodies. 

Let’s talk about why HEMA is used so much in the nail industry and why many salon professionals, clients, and at-home nail artists have started avoiding products that contain this ingredient. 

The Function of HEMA in Gel Nail Polish

By polymerizing gel polish, HEMA helps to boost its durability and adhesion capabilities in a gel manicure. HEMA also impacts the texture and consistency of gel nail polish—it allows a polish application to be facile because HEMA is not volatile, resulting in a hard, UV-cured polish with long-lasting shine. 

Given these capabilities, it’s no wonder why gel nail polish manufacturers have historically valued HEMA. 

However, in light of emerging health incidents surrounding the use of HEMA, experts have begun calling HEMA the #1 allergen in nail products and cosmetics.2

Potential Allergic Reactions to HEMA

When HEMA makes direct contact with the epidermis, it sometimes leads to serious problems. People who experience a HEMA allergy can exhibit symptoms such as3:

  • Skin Irritation
  • Eczema
  • Inflammation

The number of nail allergies, specifically contact dermatitis cases caused by HEMA, have become particularly prevalent in recent years, with many cases in North America and Europe stemming directly from the use of nail cosmetics.4 Some cases have been noted from an allergic reaction to acetone but that’s not the topic of this blog. 

Identifying HEMA in Nail Polish Ingredients

Despite HEMA’s potential dangers, there’s no need to be scared of insidious ingredients lurking unbeknownst in your nail products. Simply take these three precautions, and you can protect yourself from potential harm at the hands of HEMA: 

  • Scrutinize your current nail polish to check for HEMA as an ingredient
  • Be extra diligent to peruse ingredient lists when buying new polishes
  • Seek out trusted brands that manufacture their products responsibly, such as Dazzle Dry
  • Ask your nail technician for the product description on the back of the nail polish, especially if you have sensitive skin

Benefits of HEMA-Free Polishes

The good news is that avoiding HEMA never has to mean avoiding nail polish altogether. By investing in HEMA-free alternative products, you can enjoy high-quality manicures and pedicures without risking your health. 

But let’s be real—it can be a hassle to read through the long list of complex ingredients on the back of every polish bottle that catches your eye before making a purchase. 

For a more convenient and enjoyable experience, use nail polish brands you know you can trust. 

That way, you can peruse an entire collection of stunning nail polish colors without having to think twice about the integrity of their ingredients. 

Dazzle Dry is the ideal solution. We pride ourselves on defying industry norms by offering high-performance nail products that are: 

  • Non-toxic
  • Natural and healthy
  • Free from flawed ingredients

Tips for Using HEMA-Based Nail Polishes Safely

As the debate concerning the safety (or lack thereof) of HEMA-based products evolves, some nail enthusiasts may continue to use polishes that contain this ingredient. 

If you’re sure that you don’t have a HEMA allergy and you just want to use up that last bottle before making the switch to a safer alternative, like Dazzle Dry’s HEMA-free polishes, take these precautions to protect yourself:

  • Avoid skin contact – We recommend applying HEMA-based polishes to the nail plate only, without letting any of the product stray onto your skin. This is easier said than done, but be sure to practice extra caution to prevent unnecessary drips when painting your nails with HEMA-based products.  
  • Let your nails breathe – No matter what nail polish you use, it’s good to give your nails a break from time to time. In other words, avoid applying one coat after another without any rest period in between. When your nails are bare, you can take the time to thoroughly check that they’re still healthy and strong.

Find HEMA-Free Nail Polish Easily with Dazzle Dry 

Now that we’ve answered the question, what is HEMA in nail products, you can steer clear of this potentially harmful ingredient the next time you invest in nail care and polish—especially if you use Dazzle Dry. 

At Dazzle Dry, we believe you deserve easy access to safe nail solutions you can trust. That’s why our high-performance, non-toxic nail polishes are responsibly crafted without the use of any harsh chemicals, including HEMA. 

Browse our stunning selection to find your new go-to polish and enjoy beautiful manicures minus the menacing side effects you might risk with HEMA-based brands. 


  1. Nail Knowledge. HEMA: why is it being demonised? https://nailknowledge.org/blog/hema-why-is-it-being-demonised
  2. The Beauty Academy. Working Safely with Gel & Acrylic Nail Products to Minimise the Risk of Allergic Reaction. https://www.thebeautyacademy.org/blog/working-safely-with-gel-acrylic-nail-products-to-minimise-the-risk-of-allergic-reaction/
  3. Salons Direct. The Ultimate Guide To HEMA Free Gel Polish. https://www.salonsdirect.com/blog/hema-free-gel-polish-guide/
  4. National Library of Medicine. 2-Hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA): A clinical review of contact allergy and allergic contact dermatitis-Part 1. Introduction, epidemiology, case series and case reports. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37752620/