Nut Allergy and the Nail Salon

in Food Allergy, Peanut & Tree Nut
Photo: Thinkstock

A quick manicure at your local nail salon or spa can be a relaxing pick-me-up, but don’t get too lulled by the pampering.

Many manicurists massage conditioning oil into your hands to moisturize your cuticles and nails. A common ingredient in cuticle softener? Sweet almond oil.

According to South Carolina-based salon owner Rosanne Kinley, who’s also past president of the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology, sweet almond oil is commonly used by manicurists not only because it’s effective but because “it has an extremely long shelf life.”

But what if you are allergic to almond or other tree nuts? Is it safe?

Allergists told Allergic Living magazine that it’s difficult to know just how much almond protein is in these oils after the manufacturing process. It’s likely there isn’t much, they say. And if that’s the case, and the product is only being applied to the nail surface, “it would be unlikely to be of any significant risk,” says Dr. Scott Sicherer, a New York City allergist.

That said, Sicherer notes that soaking your fingers in the oil could cause skin irritation. And, if you are extremely allergic to almond – meaning that you react even to very small amounts – and if bite your nails or cuticles (meaning that you might ingest the oil), your allergist may counsel complete avoidance.

Discuss the matter with your own doctor. But Allergic Living suggests a simple solution in the meantime: Bring some safe-for-you oil (olive, grape seed, canola, safflower, coconut) to your next manicure to use as an alternative.

Author and allergy coach Sloane Miller is a contributor to Allergic Living magazine. Her book is called Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies, and she writes regularly on her blog.