For years, acrylic, or artificial, nails have been the answer for anyone who has longed for well-manicured hands. They don't chip, peel or crack, and you don't have to wait weeks for your nails to grow to have fabulous fingernails. Aside from time and money necessary to maintain acrylic nails, there can be some downsides, which usually involve nail fungus or an allergic reaction to the polymer-based substances in the product. While they may seem harmless, both application and wear can cause problems. Let’s take a look at what happens at the salon when we get acrylic 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. * The chemicals in the products used to apply artificial nails can irritate the skin around your nails and elsewhere. The compounds can cause inflammation, separation of the natural nail from the skin, burning, pain and allergic reactions. There are cases of some women who have completely lost their natural nails and destroyed the nail bed. If this happens, the nail will never grow back. * You are most likely inhaling toxic fumes and other irritants if the salon where you get your nails done is not well ventilated. * Use of hair dryer to dry nails faster may cause burns as some of the substances used to apply the acrylic are flammable upon contact with high heat. * Many times beauty salons don’t properly clean and sterilize their instruments and materials once they are done using them on a customer. There is easy transfer of germs and diseases from one customer to another. The most common side effects of using artificial nails are: - Acrylic nails are completely rigid and can cause injuries from the slightest blow. This means the plastic nail will pull the natural nail with it. It’s extremely painful and takes the nail a long time to regrow. - Artificial nails come with a much higher risk of infection. Bacteria and microorganisms that cause disease can accumulate in any pocket between the natural nail and the acrylic. - Allergic reactions are common with artificial nails. This is due to the plastics and toxins they’re made from. The result: red, swollen and itching fingers. In short, artificial nails can leave your nails thin, brittle, and parched. If after reading this article, and despite the dangers, you still want to wear artificial nails, take note of the following tips to reduce damage to your nails. 1. Choose soak-off gel nails instead of acrylic nails. Gel nails are a little easier on your nails because they are more flexible. This means your own nails are less likely to crack. 2. Use 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 and cures more quickly than a UV curing light thereby, reducing your UV exposure. 3. Skip the cuticle trimming. Cuticles protect your nails and the surrounding skin from infection. When you trim or cut your cuticles, it is easier for bacteria and other germs to get inside your body and cause an infection. Nail infections can take a long time to clear. 4. 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. 5. Get your nails done at a professional salon by a qualified esthetician. Make sure the area is well ventilated, bring your own file and watch for any changes or pain in your fingers and nails. 6. Wash and dry your hands before the nails are applied so there’s no trace of moisture on the nails. This prevents fungi from spreading once the nails are in place. 7. Make sure the esthetician wears latex or plastic gloves. A cut or scrape on the hands is the ideal place for all types of diseases that spread by contact to thrive. Your nails speak volumes about you!