Beware of burns from false nail glue splashing onto clothes!

The current trend for false nails and the health restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an increase in the use of cyanoacrylate adhesives at home. While direct skin contact with these glues is generally not serious, splashes through clothing can cause severe burns, sometimes even requiring skin grafts.

A chemical reaction linked to contact with the fabric

Direct skin contact with cyanoacrylate false nail glue is generally not serious. On the other hand, when this glue comes into contact with fabric, especially cotton or wool, it causes a chemical reaction resulting in an instantaneous release of intense heat. In addition, the glue's high fluidity favours its diffusion through fabric, which increases the area of burned skin.

In November 2020, French poison control centres reported two serious cases of burns in young children: a 20-month-old girl was burned on her left wrist through her cotton T-shirt and required a skin graft, and a 2-year-old girl received burns to her hand and forearm.

Products to be kept out of the reach of children

These false nail glues are sold freely in shops and on the internet. On the many products available, mentions of the risk of burns, whether direct or indirect through clothing, are often unclear or even non-existent.

To prevent serious burns that most often occur in children, ANSES recommends that manufacturers make labelling clearer and more visible, and inform the public about:

  • the importance of keeping these products out of the reach of children;

  • what action to take if glue is splashed onto clothing: immediately apply cold soapy water to the place where the glue has been splashed to limit the size and depth of the burn, and seek medical advice.

Lastly, the Agency points out that cyanoacrylate adhesives are also used for other purposes such as model making, and that the above recommendations also apply to these uses.