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Artificial Nails: Problems and Treatment

Topic Overview

Common problems may develop with artificial nails, such as:

  • Bacterial infection. You may dislodge an artificial nail from the nail bed by bumping it or catching it. Infection can develop in the gap that forms between the two nails, especially if the artificial nail is reglued before a thorough cleaning.
  • Fungal nail infection. This can occur when moisture collects under acrylic nails. It is more common with nails that are left on for 3 months or longer. This type of infection can also happen if you reglue the artificial nail before you clean the gap.
  • An allergic skin reaction to the products used to apply the artificial nails. You may develop itching, redness, and swelling around the nail. The reaction may cause the natural nail to separate from the nail bed.

Home treatment

Try home treatment for problems with artificial nails.

  • Remove the nail. Do not put on another one if:
    • You suspect an infection or an allergic reaction to the artificial nail.
    • Your natural nail separates from the nail bed while you are wearing an artificial nail. The artificial nail may catch and tear the nail bed if you leave it on.
  • Clean the space between the two nails if an artificial nail has separated from your natural nail and you don't suspect an infection. Dip your fingertip into rubbing alcohol for about 15 seconds before reattaching the artificial nail.

Prevention

To help prevent problems with artificial nails:

  • Test for a reaction to the artificial nail by having just one nail applied. Wait several days to see whether redness, itching, pain, or rash around or under the nail or separation of the nail from the nail bed develops.
  • Do not apply an artificial nail if the nail or the skin around the nail looks irritated or infected.
  • If an artificial nail does separate from the nail bed, dip your fingertip into rubbing alcohol for 15 seconds before reattaching the artificial nail. This will clean the space between the nails.
  • Do not wear artificial nails for longer than 3 months at a time. Give your natural nails a month to rest before reapplying artificial nails.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised October 7, 2012

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