Acrylic nails: Can they harm natural nails?

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Acrylic nails: Can they harm natural nails?

Question

Can I harm my natural nails by wearing acrylic nails every day?

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Answer

Acrylic nails aren't likely to harm your natural nails. It's important to be cautious when using acrylic nails, however.

Sometimes a gap develops between the acrylic nail and the natural nail. If the acrylic nail is bumped or jarred, it can separate from the natural nail. This gap provides a moist, warm environment in which a nail infection can flourish. A nail infection might also occur if acrylic nails are too long or too rigid, or the nails are applied with unsanitary tools. If you develop a nail infection, your natural nail might become thick or ragged and appear discolored.

It's also possible to have an allergic reaction to components of acrylic nails or the adhesives used to apply them. This can result in redness, swelling and pain around the nail.

If you choose to have acrylic nails applied in a salon, take steps to minimize the risks:

  • Stick to salons that display a current state license, and work only with technicians also licensed by the state board.
  • Be wary if you notice fumes. A strong odor could be a sign that the salon is poorly ventilated.
  • Make sure your nail technician properly sterilizes all tools used during your treatment and washes his or her hands between customers.
  • Soak your nails in a fresh bowl of soapy water before treatment begins.
  • Don't allow your cuticles to be pushed back or trimmed. This can increase the risk of a nail infection.
  • Don't allow the surface of your natural nails to be filed or roughened before the acrylic nails are applied. This weakens your natural nails.
  • Request a new nail file — or consider bringing your own, since nail files can't be sterilized.

If you opt to apply acrylic nails at home, follow the safety precautions printed on the package. Work in a well-ventilated area, and be careful to protect the skin around your nails from the chemicals used to apply acrylic nails.

If you suspect a nail infection or have redness, swelling or pain around a nail, consult a dermatologist for an evaluation.

Last Updated: 2012-02-07
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