Do acrylic nails go under the skin? (+3 tips)

In this article, we will discuss the application of acrylic nails on the nail bed and whether they go under the skin. This article will also cover the management and treatment of skin infections caused by acrylic nails.

Do acrylic nails go under the skin?

No, acrylic nails do not go under the skin. The site of application of acrylic nails is on the cuticle or the nail bed. However, they are never applied directly on the skin present under the nail bed. Acrylic nails are a paste made of liquid monomer and powder polymer that hardens and bonds with your nails using LED light.

When preparing nails for acrylic nail application, the beautician uses a cuticle pusher to push your cuticles back. This is done to keep the cuticles away from your nail bed. After this procedure, acrylic nails are applied onto the nail bed with glue. Under no circumstances are they shoved down under the skin.

Our natural nails grow continuously. Because of this, you will start noticing a small gap between your natural nails (cuticle or nail bed) and acrylic nails. As acrylic nails can be removed from the nail bed, it further verifies the superficial attachment of fake nails to real nails.

How acrylic nails can affect the skin?

  • Soreness: Acrylic nails form a solid seal over the nails because of which people may feel sensitivity and soreness in their nails.
  • Irritation: irritation and sensitization can occur if the acrylic nail is applied inappropriately or the nail tip is not formed correctly. 
  • Pterygium inversum unguis (PIU): wearing acrylic nails for a longer time can cause PIU. It develops when the hyponychium grows to the underside of the nail. PIU can cause skin proliferation under the fingernail.
  • Skin allergy: in rare instances, skin allergy can occur due to the seepage of glue during acrylic nail application.
  • Fungal nail infection: with time and due to improper hygiene, moisture and debris begin to accumulate in the small spaces formed between the acrylic nail and the natural nail. This can increase the risk of fungal nail infection (1).
  • Nail weakness: Long-term use of acrylic nails can cause nail weakness and thinning. 

When to consult the dermatologist?

If a woman feels that acrylic nails are causing pain and inflammation then she should immediately consult a dermatologist. Nail technicians and beauticians are not trained personnel to treat nail infections and inflammations.

The dermatologist will identify the cause of the pain, discolouration, and nail weakness to take preventive actions. The clinical interventions might include:

  • Antifungal agents: such as Terbinafine are prescribed when a fungal infection causes skin thickening under the nail.
  • Pain relievers: they are often prescribed to lessen the pain associated with nail breakage, bruising, or bleeding.
  • Corticosteroids: they are often prescribed for the treatment of nail psoriasis.
  • Cuticle oil: the oil is often used to treat thickened skin under the nail.

How to maintain healthy nails while wearing acrylic nails?

  • Choose the correct shape: the shape of the acrylic nails can also impact sensitivity. Pointy nails are known to cause more soreness as compared to other shapes.
  • Nail glue: cheap nail glue can irritate the nail bed. Always select a high-quality glue for the acrylic nail application.
  • Trained professional: always go to a trained, hygienic and experienced beautician for the manicure and pedicure.
  • Avoid cuticle trimming: cuticles are pulled back during a manicure through processes of trimming and conditioning to bond acrylic nails with the nail bed. However, the cuticle protects the nail from infection.
  • Nail health: eat a vitamin-rich diet. Keratin is also required for healthy nails and hair.
  • Nail hygiene: it is important to keep the nails clean and dry while using acrylic nails. Avoid activities that can rip off the acrylic nails and cause infection (2).
  • Avoid peeling: do not remove acrylic nails by force. This can increase the risk of infection and nail damage.

How to safely remove acrylic nails from a nail bed?

  • Step 1: cut the acrylic acid nails as short as possible using a nail clipper.
  • Step 2: If acetone is to be used then apply cuticle oil or petroleum jelly to the nail bed. 
  • Step 3: Put an acetone-saturated cotton ball on the nail. Wrap it with aluminium foil and allow it to soak for 20 minutes. If an acetone-free nail polisher is to be used then soak the fingers in the bowl for 30-40 minutes.
  • Step 4: Remove the acrylic nails with the aid of a tweezer in case of acetone-free removal. In the case of acetone, the acrylic nails will fall off their own.

As a health care prefessional, I always avoid the use of acrylic nails. The length of the nail can impact the hygiene, and daily activities. However, if your job and lifestyle allows you to have long artifical nails then it can add to the aesthetics of your personality. With this, nail and hand hygiene is a must.

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Toles A. Artificial nails: are they putting patients at risk? A review of the research. Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing. 2002 Sep;19(5):164-71.


McNeil SA, Foster CL, Hedderwick SA, Kauffman CA. Effect of hand cleansing with antimicrobial soap or alcohol-based gel on microbial colonization of artificial fingernails worn by health care workers. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2001 Feb 1;32(3):367-72.