Jul 04, 2023

Are acrylics bad for your nails? Research, nail care, and more

Acrylic nails are popular offerings available in nail salons or for at-home use. Although the global popularity of nail cosmetics is increasing, acrylic nails may pose some health and safety risks.

Nail cosmetics have been a familiar part of many societies for more than 7,000 years. Current research estimates that up to 90% of women worldwide use nail products.

Although acrylic nails are generally safe, they may cause health issues, such as allergic reactions or dermatitis.

This article explores how acrylic nails may impact a person’s health, tips for nail care, and when to contact a doctor. It also answers some common questions about acrylic nails.

Many people who use acrylic nails will not experience a serious reaction. But in certain cases, acrylics may cause allergic reactions or other conditions.

Some individuals who get acrylic nails experience an allergic reaction called contact dermatitis, which is a type of eczema. This may be a reaction to the artificial nails themselves or to the glue a person uses to attach them.

A 2022 study showed that exposure to acrylic nails may lead to hand eczema. This can affect people who use artificial nails and beauty professionals who apply them.

Skin symptoms of hand eczema may include not only pain but also:

It is important for individuals who notice symptoms of eczema after contact with acrylics to speak with a doctor. A healthcare professional may prescribe medication or recommend over-the-counter products to treat eczema. They may also recommend that a person avoid using acrylic nails.

Acrylic products can cause damage to the nails themselves. They may cause a condition called “worn-down nail syndrome,” which involves the thinning of the nail after exposure to acrylics and nail filing.

One 2020 case study examined a woman with nail damage after acrylic use. She showed symptoms of onycholysis, a condition involving the nails separating from the nail beds. She also experienced red and thickened skin around her nails.

Acrylic has flammable properties. Therefore, experts recommend that individuals take care when wearing acrylic nails.

People with acrylic nails may be more likely to pick at these artificial nails. Picking at the nails can damage the natural nail plate and thin a person’s nails. This behavior may also cause a person’s nails to flake or develop pits along their surfaces.

Artificial nails are an important part of self-expression for many individuals. Although they may pose health risks, there are steps to take that may prevent or reduce nail damage.

First, soak-off gel nails may be less abrasive than acrylic nails. These artificial nails are more flexible and less likely to cause nail cracks.

Regardless of the type of artificial nail, it is important for a person to avoid picking at these nails or peeling them off. A person may reduce the risk of their nails breaking or thinning by following proper removal instructions.

The ultraviolet (UV) light many nail salons use to set artificial nails can also be damaging. A person can decrease their exposure to UV light by connecting with a salon that uses LED curing lights instead. Because UV light can damage skin, avoiding UV exposure may help a person prevent long-term skin damage.

Finally, a person may minimize how often they use acrylic nails to support their natural nail health. A person may decide to only use acrylic nails for special occasions, for example.

It is advisable for anyone experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction, nail infection, or skin irritation to contact a healthcare professional.

Red or discolored patches of dry skin may be a symptom of dermatitis. Rashes or thickened skin areas can also indicate this skin condition. It is a good idea for individuals who notice dermatitis symptoms after exposure to acrylics to consult a doctor.

Thickened, cracked, or fragile nails may be symptoms of a fungal infection. It is important for individuals to contact a doctor for nail fungal infection treatment if they think they have this infection.

Below are some of the most common questions about acrylic nails.

Acrylic nails trap more bacteria than natural nails can. Healthcare professionals wearing acrylic nails may increase the risk of infections among the people they treat. Because of this, many healthcare settings do not allow employees to wear artificial nails.

Soak-off gel nails may pose less risk of nail damage than acrylic nails. A person may also wear nail polish alone as another less abrasive option.

It is advisable for a person to properly remove acrylic nails to minimize damage to their natural nails. Keeping nails clean and trimmed also promotes natural nail health. Rounding the tips of the nails slightly can maintain nail strength as the nails heal.

Acrylic nails are popular nail choices that generally do not cause serious health effects. However, acrylic nails may cause nail damage or skin irritation.

Individuals who get acrylic nails may experience allergic reactions, eczema, or nail thinning. By using artificial nails less and following proper nail care, a person may reduce their risk of adverse effects.

It is a good idea for anyone experiencing nail or skin problems after wearing or applying acrylic nails to contact a doctor to determine any appropriate treatment.