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Artificial Nail Enhancements: Pros and Cons

In my last article, I spoke about the benefits of getting artificial nails in order to feel beautiful and improve the byproducts of eczema.

Over the past four years, I have maintained getting a combination of both acrylic and gel nails to support me with my eczema. Although I currently prefer gel nails over acrylic for multiple reasons, I will let you decide on your own what works best for you.

Check out the most common artificial nail enhancers and the pros and cons for each one:

Acrylic nails

Acrylic, the most popular artificial nail, is a combination of liquid monomer and powder polymer. This type of enhancement creates a hard protective layer on top of your original nails.

Pros:

  • Affordable, costing an average of $35 for a full set and $15 for refills
  • Many available trained nail technicians
  • Lasts longer due to its durability

Cons:

  • Uses significant amounts of chemicals during the application process
  • Can damage nail bed if not removed correctly and carefully
  • Looks less natural than other nail types

Gel nails

The second most popular nail enhancement is gel powder. Gel uses UV light to harden or cure the gel nail polish.

Pros:

  • Doesn’t have the fumes of acrylic nails
  • Natural-looking
  • More flexible
  • Easier to remove

Cons:

  • Removal can result in nails damage if done too frequently
  • More expensive than acrylic, averaging between $25-$60 per application
  • Speculation that UV light poses low risk of skin cancer1

Shellac

The newest type of nail enhancement is what’s known as shellac. Often confused with a gel manicure, shellac uses a combination of regular manicure and gel. This four-step process also involves the use of a UV-light to dry the gel.

Pros:

  • Thick and strong, giving it flexibility and durability
  • Natural-looking
  • Can last up to one month
  • Healthy removal technique to leave nails strong and durable

Cons:

  • Most expensive out of the three (I’ve personally paid over $60 for an application)
  • Only done by licensed professionals
  • Requires a special removal process and is less damaging on the nails than acrylic and gel
  • Cannot be used to grow or lengthen your nails

Chemical warning

A BBC article warned about a chemical – methacrylate – that is often found in both gel and acrylic nails. They stated that this can cause severe allergic reactions, in which rashes can occur anywhere on the body. This allergen can “behave like many of the other significant contact allergy epidemics that have occurred in the last few decades.” Dr. Orton emphasizes that one should avoid direct skin contact with all methacrylate nail products.2

Another article, shows how the application process of acrylic nails involves chemicals and fumes, resulting in some people experiencing contact dermatitis.3

Nail home kits

Due to a lack of proper training, you increase the potential to experience an allergic reaction when using nail home kits. If you decide to use one, it is recommended that you read the instructions carefully and you use a UV lamp for curing.

Cleanliness and hygiene

When choosing a nail salon, and specifically a nail technician, be sure you seek for signs of cleanliness and sanitation. Nail salons can be hybrids of infectious diseases if not handled with proper cleanliness and care. Studies have shown that 97% of nail salon footbaths tested in one study, contained the bacteria M. fortuitum – a nasty bug that causes boils on the skin.4

Question: Which nail enhancement would you try and why?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AtopicDermatitis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Angle S. Skin Cancer Risk and Gel Manicures. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/gel-manicure-increase-skin-cancer-risk#4. Published June 12, 2018.
  2. Gel and acrylic nails allergy warning. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45129280. Published August 9, 2018.
  3. Maio P, Carvalho R, Amaro C, Santos R, Cardoso J. Allergic contact dermatitis from sculptured acrylic nails: special presentation with an airborne pattern. Dermatol Reports. 2012;4(1):e6. Published 2012 May 28. doi:10.4081/dr.2012.e6
  4. Mycobacteria in Nail Salon Whirlpool Footbaths, California - Volume 11, Number 4-April 2005 - Emerging Infectious Diseases journal - CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/11/4/04-0936_article.

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