Artificial Nails (Acrylic/Gel) - Safety/Health Concerns?

Updated on August 26, 2012
W.P. asks from Ridge, NY
9 answers

Is anyone aware of any safety/health concerns related to artificial nails (acrylic nails, gel nails, gel polish)? Since becoming a Mom (and as I get older), I am becoming more educated and aware of product safety and products that may contain harmful ingredients. I obviously try to avoid potentially harmful products and foods (for both my family & myself). On a friend's recommendation, I recently began getting 'gel nails' (a gel powder overlay similar to acrylic but using a UV light to cure it), and I am wondering if they truly are safe. Obviously the UV light is not good, but I do put a sunscreen on my hands before the procedure. I just can't help but think that the ingredients/chemicals in these products are not very good for people, but I can't seem to find any real/concrete evidence of health risks/negative effects on the internet. The people who I've asked about this have just shrugged it off, pretty much saying that both gel nails and acrylic nails are safe. Any thoughts or info? Thanks!

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So What Happened?

Thank you to those of you who gave me some very helpful information! Some of it was quite eye-opening! I've chosen to go with simple manicures with 'safer' polishes (without the proven harmful chemicals in them). Thanks again for your help, Moms!

More Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

Gel nails mess up your nails. I would totally stay away from these. The best nail look for a mom is super short, slightly rounded square shape and polished a light shade that will not show chips. This is super easy to maintain and looks classier and more polished than many gel manis do. It is also more hygenic.
Long nails are way out so don't even worry about acrylic. Nail art is in right now but not really practical for a mom and IMO a little young and even a bit cheesy..

Make sure to keep your cuticles nice with oil every night-this goes a long way to making nails look good.

FYI- I just read that Zoya is the safest polish. The article looked at many brands who say they are now safe and Zoya is the only one that consistently really was.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

So your logic is that if there is nothing out there saying it is dangerous it must still be dangerous just no one knows it yet?

Has it occurred to you there is no information saying it is dangerous because it is safe?

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answers from New York on

Be it acrylic or gel, diet soda or reg soda, everything of this nature may have or has side effects. It's also a personal choice based on what you research and know to be true and what isn't. There are many reports on line about the pros and cons of fake nails. I wore acrylics for years with no problem, My girlfriend wore them for years, still does, and gets fungus infections every so often. At which point, she needs to remove them and let her nailbed "breathe" for a month or two. Fake nails also weaken the nailbed. I decided to stop, when I realized my own nails were like tissue paper. I now keep them short and manicured. You should definitely make sure your manicure place is clean and bring your own manicure tools. Sometimes its a game of chance, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It's up to you to decide. If it feels right, do it. If it doesn't, don't. If you're going to get them done and then be concerned about the chemicals involved, and them being absorbed by your body, then perhaps this isn't for you. This decision is no different than choosing to use cleaning products with chemicals versus green products. Take a look at this atrticle for more info.

Good luck on whatever you decide is best for you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I don't know about the safety factor of the "gel" or "shellac" nail polishes. It may be too soon to tell since it seems to be a new thing (the one with the UV light). I have had it done twice for special occasions and my issue with it has been that I had to go back to the salon both times to have it removed and it destroyed my real nails, which are usually very healthy and strong. It made them brittle and they kept splitting until they grew out from the procedure. I usually don't do manicures at all because they don't last and I use my hands too much. These did last a long time, but ruined my nails and they are expensive, so I don't want to spend that kind of money constantly to keep them up. So, my recommendation would be to save the gel nails for special occasions and just use a light color for your every day wear, if anything at all.

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answers from Kansas City on

i don't know exactly- but of course it's full of all kinds of chemicals etc. i am allergic to something in them (and also "gojo" hand soap, and most nail polishes) because i get tiny blisters under and around my nails when i get them. they are "safe" i am sure, just like tanning is "safe" and using harsh cleaners is "safe". just because it doesn't do any obvious immediate damage doesn't mean it's a good idea...although i have gotten my nails done a couple times, not to say i haven't. i just don't buy for a minute that it's something we should be doing constantly.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I don't know about the safety factor but I have used them before and they ruined my nails. My nails have never been the same and it has been years.

It is one of those things now more popular with the younger girls, and non-moms. I know when I had them for the short time I had them, I was limited on some of the things I could do and I did not have them long at all.

My nails grow fast now but you can see that they were damaged because of the difference in the whiter tip vs nail bed. I keep them cut pretty short and buffed.

My daughter was gung-ho to get these nails too because "everyone has them" and all the cheerleaders did. However, last year, shortly after my daughter got acrylics, one of the cheerleaders got a horrid infection (from this reputable place) ending up with Dr. visits, her hands looking embarrassingly awful and a couple rounds of antibiotics. When she was going through this, ALL the cheerleaders got the fake nails removed and no one has done it again. You wouldn't either if you have seen this poor girls hands and nails... purely gross and nasty and she had to go to school.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

Fortunately, I've always had very healthy fingernails. I don't pamper them nor do I often polish them, but they just grow.
When I break or even chip one, I just cut them all off and start over.

Anyway, I had just cut my nails off before a trip to Las Vegas with my husband and he wanted me to get my nails done. I got acrylics and ended up getting an infection and losing two fingernails. It was very painful.

I went to a reputable salon and that still happened. I have never tried fake nails since. Thankfully, my nail beds healed and I have nice nails again.

The downside, in my opinion, is that any type of artificial nail you use might look nice, but it could harm your nails.

If you have an inckling that something is don't have to do it. Not for the sake of beauty, for sure.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Not sure how they compare to the acrylic. But it is impossible to wash the germs off acrylics. That is why nurses in the newborn nursery are not allowed to have them. It caused the death of some newborns.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

There was an article about it a while back - I'm sorry that I don't remember where I saw it.

When I saw the article, I had already decided that I wasn't going to get gel nails again. I can tell that they aren't good for my nails. It takes my nails a good while to get over it after I have them removed.

I hadn't been to a nail salon in over 20 years when I went and got a manicure and chose the gel nails. So I can tell a real difference in my normal nails and these. I think, too, that in the long run, it's more expensive. It's a real pain to remove them myself, so I ended up paying them to remove them, and then getting them done again. Getting regular nail polish is easier because I can remove it at home when it's a little old and then wait until I'm ready to go back to the salon.


1 mom found this helpful