Are you one of the thousands who use acrylic fingernails? Well, there are a few things you should know about them first.

For today’s working woman, and increasingly, for today’s working man, fingernails have become a cosmetic fashion point. With most people now working in front of keyboards, and with many driven to distractions such as chewing their fingernails,  more cases of broken or damaged nails are being seen. An easy way to fix the problem is to check-in for fake fingernails, which use acrylic in one form or another. Some are plastic nails glued with an acrylic adhesive, some are repaired by wrapping them in silk or linen, then bonding them to the nail plate with acrylic glue, and still others use various acrylate polymers which are then shaped or sculpted onto the surface of the fingernail plate. The problem is that there can be risks, and they are right at your fingertips.

Fake fingernails lengthen the nail plate, meaning greater leverage is applied to the nail beds. That is why longer nails break more often, and the real fingernail underneath can come away from its nail bed. Real fingernails are highly permeable to water, fake nails of course are not. This means that fingernails  made soggy through sweat or immersion cannot evaporate water through a fake nail that is adhered on top of it. This means the real nail has a greater chance of separating and becoming infected with bacteria and yeast. In some people, acrylic glues can cause a local allergic reaction with dermatitis or inflammation, infection, and even permanent fingernail loss. In addition, the common practice of sanding the fingernail surface before attaching the acrylic can damage the natural protective coating.

Sometimes a gap develops between the acrylic nail and the natural nail. If the acrylic fingernail 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 fingernail 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.

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Here’s an action tip:

Prevention is always the best technique in nail care. If you damage your fingernails  in housework, wear gloves. If you break them on keyboards, try keeping them trimmed a little shorter. If you chew your fingernails, why not save a step by simply chewing acrylic nails straight out of the box.

If you choose to have acrylic fingernails 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 fingernails 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 fingernail 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.
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