Safety Precautions When Working with Resin | Differences between UV and Epoxy Resin

I recently popped into a local Michaels Craft Store. I haven’t been since before the pandemic! My goodness – there was a whole ton of wonderful new stuff there now!

One striking difference I noticed was the vast increase in the resin making section.  Previously, you could perhaps find just a box or two of resin supplies. Now there is a dedicated section. There were both UV and 2 part epoxy resin, silicone mold makers, molds, glitters, and so on. This definitely shows the explosion in resin popularity in the crafting world in the last few years. Not just for jewelry making but for resin pours, and for larger decorations and artwork. 

It’s not hard to see why. Resin projects are so much fun to do! 

But not all resins are created equally – there is a huge variety of formulations. There are general safety precautions when working with resin to note as well as some specific ones for certain resins. 

Liquid resins can be cured in two different ways. The two part epoxy resin formulations require a catalyst (Part B) to start the polymerization or curing process. UV resin cures upon exposure to UV light. 

General Safety Precautions

All resin use requires care. 

  • Always work in a well ventilated room such as near an open window. 
  • Use a respirator mask for filtering volatiles if you work with a lot of resin and often. 
  • You can consider working with resin outside for better ventilation if your climate allows it. However, it’s trickier with UV resin because strong sunlight will start the curing process while you are working with it. 
  • Wear gloves to avoid excessive skin contact especially if you have sensitivities. 
  • Don’t get it in your eyes. Wear safety glasses if you don’t already wear glasses.
  • Keep away from children and pets.
  • Wear a work apron to protect your clothes.
  • Protect porous surfaces like wood or fibres like carpet as spilled resin is impossible to remove. 
  • Never ever pour unused liquid resin into the sink – it is not good for the environment. If you must get rid of old resin, cure first before disposing in the garbage.

Advantages and Disadvantages of UV Resin

UV resin is popular because it’s ready to use with no mixing required and the curing is very fast – in minutes. Especially useful for thin successive layers.  Epoxy resin takes at least 24 hours to fully cure. It’s fine to handle though after an overnight cure. 

However, UV resin costs a lot more than epoxy resin. It’s less desirable in molds because it shrinks more. The molds have to be transparent to let the UV light through. With larger molds, UV resin cures unevenly as the UV light will not easily reach some areas of the molds. 

Most UV resin manufacturers have a poor record of letting you know of the safety issues with these products. So look or ask for their safety data sheets (SDS). UV resins can be 3 x as irritating to skin and eyes as the epoxy resin.  As you do so many rapid cures with UV resins, in a short period of time, there is more off gassing of volatiles so good ventilation is very important. You should not be inhaling any of this. 

UV lamps are used to cure this type of resin.  These lamps emit the same UVA light from the sun and from tanning beds. So using these could be a risk factor for skin cancer – more investigation is needed. One dermatology journal reported two women with no family history of skin cancers developed skin cancer after nail light exposure.

This doesn’t mean you should not use it. Just take steps to protect yourself :

  • Apply sunscreen, at least SPF 30, on the hands that are typically exposed to the UV light. This will also reduce age spots which is really skin damage from the UV light (or sunlight if you sunbathe a lot). 
  • Wear sunglasses.
  • Don’t use UV lamps too often.
  • Much higher wattage is not necessarily better.  This article recommends UV lights of a minimum of 36W for UV resin. So a 54 W UV lamp is adequate.  
  • Consider using UV LED resin such as this one from Japan, because it uses UV LED lights with even less intensity – around the 6-10 W. A 36 -54W UV LED lamp is adequate.

Different Types of 2 Part Epoxy Resins

There are many different formulations of epoxy resins. Some are designed for doming, casting or for flat use as in the protection of artwork. 

These resins need a catalyst (Part B) to start the curing process. Never ever use a UV lamp to try and cure epoxy resin – you will only succeed in yellowing it! 

Why You Should Avoid Using Epoxy Resins with Nonylphenol

Nonylphenol is a chemical which is commonly used to bulk out Part B of epoxy resins to make it easier for the consumer to mix in a 1: 1 ratio.  Without it, the ratios can range from about 2:1 to  3:1. 

But nonylphenol is a known health and environmental hazard. It is an endocrine disruptor (hormonally active agent) due to its estrogen-like activity. Some effects of exposure to this include early menstruation, low sperm count and poor reproductive health.  Another well known endocrine disruptor, is BPA (bisphenyl A) – its use is now phased out in food plasticware. 

Nonylphenol is extensively used in many resin formulations as well as other products in North America and around the world. But it is now banned in the EU, Canada and Japan. It persists and accumulates in the environment as it doesn’t easily degrade thus affecting fish, aquatic birds and so on. 

Always check the SDS or information sheets of any resin you buy and see if it contains nonylphenol. Request it from the company if you can’t find the important information on their website.  It’s not enough for the manufacturers to state it has no-VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or no solvents and claim that it is safe. (Note : organic in this sense means compounds which contain carbon)

I prefer to use the odorless Brilliant Resin from Little Windows which is the safest two part epoxy resin you can get for our craft work. It is both a doming and casting resin ideal for jewelry making.  A low bubble producer as well. Brilliant resin contains no VOCs, no solvents and more importantly, no nonylphenol.  Nonylphenol is commonly found in other resin formulations in North America. That is why the ratio for Brilliant Resin is 2: 1 for parts A and B not 1: 1. You can see Little Windows safety info and link to their SDS here

Brilliant Resin takes a day to fully cure. I usually leave it overnight under cover to cure before handling.  So it’s not instantaneous as UV resin, but safer.  The 15% discount code to use is BG1516.



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