Acrylic nails, gel nails, and nail tips can make our nails look flawless. With a little bit of care, you can keep these artificial nails looking healthy and flawless. This is what dermatologists recommend.
Getting artificial nails at a salon: By taking a few precautions, many people can safely wear artificial nails.
Before applying artificial nails
Apply artificial nails only to healthy nails. Artificial nails may seem like the perfect cover-up for brittle nails or nails affected by psoriasis. Dermatologists caution that you should resist this temptation. Covering brittle or diseased nails only makes matters worse. It might even cause you to lose natural nails.
Test for a skin reaction first. The chemicals used to create artificial nails can cause a skin reaction. Some people get an itchy rash on the skin around their nails. Others get a rash when an artificial nail touches their skin. If you will be getting artificial nails for the first time, try wearing one nail for a while first.
After applying artificial nails
Clean and check artificial nails daily. Taking a few minutes every day to do the following will help prevent infections:
- Wash your hands with soap and water, using a nail brush to clean gently around your nails.
- While cleaning your artificial nails, check for loose ones.
- Dry your hands and nails thoroughly.
If you find a loose or damaged nail, repair it safely. Your risk of developing an infection increases when you wear artificial nails. If you find a loose or damaged nail, dermatologists recommend stopping in at your nail salon for a repair. If you repair a nail at home, make sure you:
- Use only glue made specifically for artificial nails.
- Never bandage a broken nail.
If you bandage an artificial nail or use glue that is not made specifically for artificial nails, you increase your risk of developing an infection. Signs of infection include swelling, redness, and pus. If you see any of these signs, immediately make an appointment to see a dermatologist.
Make time for touch-ups every 2 to 3 weeks. Whether you apply the nails at home or go to a salon, artificial nails need touch-ups. As your natural nails grow, gaps appear between the artificial nails and natural nails. Fills are necessary every 2 to 3 weeks. This helps keep nails attractive and prevent problems like infections.
Wear gloves when washing dishes, cleaning, and gardening. You want to protect your artificial nails from detergents and other products that you use around the home. These products can loosen artificial nails — and discolor them.
Use your fingertips rather than your artificial nails. Artificial nails are hard, so it can be tempting to use them like tools. Avoid the temptation. You could rip off an artificial nail by doing something as simple as using the nail to open a flip-top can. When an artificial nail rips off, it can tear your natural nail. Ouch!
Prevent an artificial nail from catching. If an artificial nail catches on something, this, too, can tear your natural nail off.
Let your natural nails breathe every 2 or 3 months. Your natural nails need care, too. Every few months, have a nail tech remove your artificial nails. Wait a few days before you get new artificial nails.
Getting artificial nails at a salon
Getting your nails done at a nail salon can make you feel pampered. You can safely enjoy this pampering by following these dermatologists’ guidelines:
- Go only to salons and nail technicians that are licensed.
- Be sure nail technicians wash their hands and sanitize tubs before each client.
- Bring your own manicure supplies, especially nail files. Salons may not sterilize their files and other tools adequately to prevent infections.
- Return to the salon for maintenance every 2 to 3 weeks. Artificial nails loosen and grow out. The technician can fill, trim, and seal your nails, which helps to prevent infections.
Applying artificial nails at home
If you apply the nails at home, be sure to follow these precautions:
- Keep nail kits and supplies out of children’s reach. The kits contain poisonous chemicals.
- Apply nails in a well-ventilated room.
- Avoid getting nail chemicals on your skin.
- Be kind to your natural nails by never cutting your cuticles or filing the surface of your nails. These practices can harm your natural nails.
- Follow the directions in the kit. Use only the materials in the kit to apply and repair nails.
When to see a dermatologist
Dermatologists specialize in diagnosing and treating skin, hair, and nail problems. If you suspect that you have a nail infection or another nail problem, you should see a dermatologist.
- Dahdah MJ, Scher RK. “Nail diseases related to nail cosmetics.” Dermatol Clin. 2006 Apr;24(2):233-9.
- Draelos ZD, Elston DM, et al. “Nail cosmetics.” Medscape Reference. Last accessed 2/21/2013.
- Heymann WR. “Nail cosmetics: Potential hazards.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007 Dec;57(6):1069-70.
- Iorizzo M, Piraccini BM, Tosti A. “Nail cosmetics in nail disorders.” J Cosmet Dermatol. 2007 Mar;6(1):53-8.
- American Academy of Dermatology. “Nails.” (fact sheet) Last accessed 2/21/2013.
- Rich P. “Nail cosmetics.” Dermatol Clin. 2006 Jul;24(3):393-9.
- Van Voorhees A. “Acrylates and contact dermatitis.” Dermatology World, May 2012. Last accessed 2/21/2013.