We ask a Derm: Are Acrylic Nails Bad for You? 

Acrylic nails have been in demand for so long. 

They are well known for being customizable, providing strength and thickness to your nails, and also for desirable shapes and adding length to your natural nails. 

But are acrylic nails bad for you? Do they harm your nails? 

Yes, no, or maybe….

This answer depends upon several factors that revolve around the acrylic manicure. 

Application technique, quality of products used, nail technician, and nail salon are some of them. 

Keep reading to get an in-depth answer to your question. 

Are Acrylic Nails Bad for You? 


Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist from New York City, states that there exist both pros and cons of having acrylics depending upon several factors as further described. 

How Bad Are Acrylic Nails for Your Health? 

Basically, these are not harmful nails but chemicals used for their application and removal.

Acrylic nails are actually formed after powder polymer reacts/combines with liquid monomers. 

Similarly, the removal process involves the use of 100% pure acetone. 

Both these processes highly affect the nails causing serious damage to both your nail bed and surrounding skin. 

Do Acrylic Nails Do Long-term Damage? 

Long-term exposure of your natural nails to acrylics can lead to both fungal and bacterial infections. 

Its continual application for long durations removes any natural oils from your natural nail, leaving it dry. 

Not only this. 

When acrylics are left soaked in pure acetone break down, which may lead to fungi or bacteria building up that can cause any serious infection further.

Is It Ok to Wear Acrylic Nails for Years? 

A full set of acrylic nails can last from anywhere between six to eight weeks, that too when you go for regular touch-ups every 2-3 weeks, 

These artificial nail enhancements can be a great choice for some special occasions, but these can not last forever. 

They are not permanent.

In short, if taken care of and with regular filling sessions, the same pair of acrylic nails may last for a few months, but not years! 

So, it is NOT OK to wear acrylic nails for years as this won’t give your actual nails the time to regrow, rebuild and breathe. 

Do Acrylics Damage Nails? 


Yes, or maybe, these are not artificial nails that cause damage but the harsh chemicals used in them. 

What Causes Acrylic to Damage Your Natural Nails? 

Chemicals

The chemicals that are used while applying and removing these nails are the main cause of damage. 

These chemicals (Formaldehyde and Resin found in acrylic paste) can irritate the surrounding skin causing severe allergies in some while causing contact dermatitis in others. 

Contact dermatitis is a form of skin allergy in which the infected area can witness cracks, blood, and tiny bumps filled with fluid. 

This can be transferred through contact with the infected person. 

Since it is caused due to excessive washing of hands, nail techs are more vulnerable to it. Not only the starting but removal of acrylics also require harsh chemicals. 

Most nail salons prefer using pure acetone to remove acrylics, which causes excessive drying of the cuticle area and sometimes causes severe nail damage. 

Filing and buffing of the nails: 

Nails are filed and buffed before applying the acrylic paste. This is done until the nails feel rough to provide a surface for the acrylics to grip on. 

Filing and buffing of the nails are roughly done to remove the top layer of the nails, leading to nail thinning over a longer period. 

This may also loosen the nail from its original place. 

UV exposure and LED curing lights:

UV light or LED lamp speed up the drying process in almost every nail salon. Both lamps emit ultraviolet (UV) rays that can cause skin cancer. 

New technologies in such lamps reduce the risk of such cancer, but the chances of getting wrinkles, premature skin aging, spots, and other damages still prevail. 

Regrowth of your natural nails: 

Your natural nails grow in no time under artificial nails. Once they start growing, a gap too starts taking place between them. 

This gap can act as a breeding ground for fungi and bacteria. They may grow into a serious contagious infection. 

Removal process: 

When you wish to remove acrylics, your nail tech would use pure acetone for the same. Depending upon several other factors, they are to be soaked for 15 or more minutes. 

This process leaves not only the cuticle area but your nails dry too. 

This is because it removes the natural oils present in your nails or the cuticle region, leaving them dehydrated. 

Are There Healthier Alternatives to Acrylic Nails? 


There are several other options available that can be easily used to replace acrylics. 

These are comparatively much healthier and cost-effective in some cases too. 

Gel nails: 

These types of manicures are the most preferred ones at salons after acrylics. This gel is a semi-hard gel that provides flexibility to your nails. But even gel nails may cause some damage to your natural nails. 

They can cause brittleness, peeling, and cracking in the long run. Even it may cause skin cancer because UV light is still used. 

Press-on nails: 

These are the easiest and most affordable options for manicures. Just take them off the packet, and stick them on the nails.

Another good point is that they are available in various designs, lengths, and shapes and can be easily removed at home or anywhere. 

They do not damage your natural nails as many other manicures do. 

Nail Polishes

These are found in almost every house. Nail polish is the most common way of decorating and giving your nails a new look. 

They are available in a variety of colors, textures, etc. Non-toxic formulas of nail polishes are also available that are gentle on your natural nails. 

These can be easily removed by using an acetone-free polish remover, which means they are a non-damaging substitute. 

Ok, but What if I Still Want to Wear Acrylic Nails? 


Yes, you can! 

But also, you may need to take care of a few things to minimize nail damage. 

Take frequent breaks: 

Taking frequent and longer breaks will give time for your nails to recover fully from the damage caused by acrylics. 

You may wear acrylics for a special occasion, but don’t forget to return to your natural nails once these activities are over. 

In this way, you can also have your new manicure that too without hurting your natural ones. 

Go for regular touch-ups: 

Do not forget to go up for regular fill-ins after every 2-3 months or as needed. This time interval may depend upon the growth of your natural nail. 

But do not delay this time for so long. Otherwise, this will become a breeding ground for fungi and bacteria. 

Cuticles are your friends. Don’t cut them:

Cuticles are there to protect and prevent your nails from any outer infection. Cutting them exposes the nail bed to numerous infections that may take a long time to heal.

Therefore, you must avoid either cutting or pushing them too hard.

Avoid UV curing lamps: 

UV lamps emit high radiations of ultraviolet rays that directly affect your nails and hands. Try using an LED lamp instead. LED lamps are comparatively less harmful to your nails. 

Do not try to remove them by yourself: 

Do not try to remove acrylics by yourself. You must visit a nail professional. If you try to pull, cut, or break acrylics by yourself, you may end up hurting your natural nail. 

Can Acrylic Nails Cause Cancer? 


It’s not acrylics that can cause cancer, but the UV curing light or LED curing light that is used to cure them.

These lights contain high UV radiation that can destroy numerous cells of ours, causing skin cancer.

Are Acrylic Nails Toxic? 


As mentioned earlier, these are not toxic nails, but the harsh substances present in them.

Chemical products used during the process contain a few potential cancer-causing chemicals.

Resin, formaldehyde, and benzene are a few of them.

Under certain nail conditions, these substances may get absorbed and may enter our blood directly.

Are Acrylic Nails Safe for 12 Years Old? 


While there is no legal restriction on having acrylics, it has been observed that children of this age who got their acrylics done face issues such as nail bed injuries.

This is because of the long extensions that either got stuck indoors or something else while playing or some other activities.

In short, there is no restriction from legal authorities.

It’s your choice and preference.

But it is advisable not to get them done at such a small age because of numerous outdoor activities that can cause pain to your nail bed area.

Are Acrylic Nails Bad for the Environment? 


Acrylic application and production emit harmful gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and many others.

Not only this, but also they are made up of petroleum and other toxic chemicals. 

This clearly means that they are a nonrenewable and non-biodegradable product.

Long-term Effects of Acrylic Nails? 


Long-term and regular application of acrylics will definitely lead to skin cancer.

Benzene is the compound that leads to it.

Also, the continuous application requires a lot of filing and buffing of the nails that remove the upper, protective layer of the nail, which ultimately leads to their thinning.

Fungal and bacterial infections are also counted among the problems that may last for a long period of time.

What Type of Fake Nails is the Healthiest? 


According to dermatologists, nail stickers, nail polishes, and press-on are healthier alternatives to acrylic nails.  

These types of manicures do not cause any harm because neither they contain any harmful chemicals nor do their removal process require any harsh chemicals. 

Nail polishes can be easily removed by using an acetone-free polish remover.  

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