Are artificial nails dangerous to your health?

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

DENVER -- Doctors are warning that the aesthetically pleasing artificial gel nails may be dangerous to your health.

Because gel nails last a long time, doctors say it's tempting to forget about what's underneath them.

Doctors say the gel can work so well that clients can allow too much time to pass before having their artificial nails removed. Meanwhile, trapped bacteria can cause infections.

“I've never had a problem, my nails don't lift, they look great the whole two weeks I have them on, and that's important to me,” said Katie Murray.

Dr. Tahl Humes of Vitahl Medical Aesthetics said fungus looks like a white patch under the nail adding, “One thing they need to worry about is whether or not they had any infection, did they have a fungal infection before and it's now something they're covering up”.

You can keep your nails healthy and strong without giving up your glamorous look. It just takes a little extra effort.

Doctors say you can start by asking about your salon's safety guidelines.

Summer Vu, the owner of Summer's Nail Bar & Salon in Cherry Creek says each employee must follow a strict checklist.

“Washing their hands after every customer, sanitizing everything and making sure all the implements are clean," Vu said.

Doctors say you should also have your nails removed completely every few weeks so you can inspect them for signs of infection.

“The big thing you're looking for with a bacterial infection is redness of the skin around the nails or any pus coming out,” Dr. Humes said.

It’s also important to protect your skin.  Doctors say too much exposure to UV light used to dry gel nails can also be dangerous, and can even cause skin cancer.  Doctors encourage people to lather on some sunscreen for added protection.

Experts offer these tips for protecting your health when visiting nail salons:

  • Pay attention to your nails and allow them to regrow and repair. Consider getting gel manicures only occasionally to decrease the risk of problems.
  • When getting gel manicures, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen on your hands to minimize damage caused by exposure to UV light during the curing process.
  • Tell the manicurist not to push or manipulate the cuticle because that will increase the risk of inflammation and infection and also dry out the nail.
  • Use traditional nail polish instead of gel nail polish if you have recurring nail problems, or if you have an allergy to acetone, which is used to remove gel manicures.
  • Rehydrate your nails several times a day with a moisturizing product, such as petroleum jelly, to combat brittleness, thinning and chipping.
  • When removing gel nail polish, do not chip it with other nails or tools.
  • Soak only the nails, not the whole hand or fingers, in acetone while nail polish is being removed. This will help prevent skin irritation. If you get gel manicures frequently, consider buying finger wraps that expose only the nails and protect surrounding skin.
  • If you notice any unusual changes to the nails, see a dermatologist.

For detailed information about how to tell if your salon is following safety guidelines, you can visit the State of Colorado’s website, and click on “Cleaning and Disinfecting Guide”.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.