Artificial nails: Dermatologists’ tips for reducing nail damage

Nail technician applying an artificial nail: Covering up brittle, soft, or damaged nails can worsen existing nail problems.

Artificial nails can lengthen short nails, making your fingers look long and slender. They can also be hard on your nails.

To get acrylic nails (a type of artificial nail) to stick, the surface of your natural nails must be filed until they feel rough. This thins your natural nails, making them weaker. Chemicals in the products used to apply artificial nails can irritate the skin around your nails and elsewhere.

The list of health risks doesn’t end here. To remove artificial nails, you often need to soak in acetone or file them off. If you want to wear artificial nails for more than a few weeks, you’ll need touchups every 2 to 3 weeks to fill in the gaps that appear as your nails grow. Frequent touchups can seriously damage your natural nails.

In short, artificial nails can leave your nails thin, brittle, and parched.

Still, some people love the look of artificial nails. If you’re one of them, these tips from dermatologists can help you reduce the damage:

  • Choose soak-off gel nails instead of acrylic nails. Gel nails are a little easier on your nails because they’re more flexible. This means your own nails are less likely to crack.

    You’ll want to ask for gel nails that soak off rather than ones that must be filed off.

  • Go to a salon that uses an LED curing light rather than a UV curing light. Gel nails require ultraviolet (UV) light to harden. LED emits lower levels of UV radiation than a UV curing light. An LED light also cures more quickly, which reduces your UV exposure.

  • Ask your nail technician to skip the cuticle trimming. Cuticles are often trimmed when you get any type of manicure. That’s a problem. Cuticles protect your nails and the surrounding skin from infection. When you trim or cut your cuticles, it’s easier for bacteria and other germs to get inside your body and cause an infection. Nail infections can take a long time to clear.

    Cut cuticles also tend to feel rough when they grow back, so a nail technician may continue to trim your cuticles to keep them smooth.

  • Reserve artificial nails for special occasions. If you love the look of artificial nails, getting them only for a special occasion can reduce nail problems. Time without artificial nails gives your nails a chance to repair themselves.

When you’re not wearing artificial nails, a regular or French manicure can leave your nails looking fabulous.

More information

Gel manicures can be tough on nails
Gel manicures: Tips for healthy nails
Manicure and pedicure safety