Do Acrylic Nails Go Under Your Skin?

Have you ever noticed that fake nails leave a small gap in the cuticle area? Granted, some nail salons leave a gap so small that it’s not immediately visible. However, a closer inspection often shows a small space between the fake nail and the cuticles.

You might wonder why it’s necessary and whether you can install acrylic nails right into the cuticles or even under the skin. Unfortunately, it’s not advisable. Read on to find out why and how to install acrylic nails correctly.

Do Artificial Nails Go Under Your Skin? 

No, acrylic nails don’t go under your skin. They are laid down at the cuticles but don’t go on or under the skin. The main reason is that interfering with the cuticles can cause itchiness, irritation, and even cuticle damage. Cuticle damage increases the risk of nail bed and plate infection.

Do Fake Nails Go Under the Cuticles? 

No, fake nails don’t go under the skin. Instead, the nails are installed at the cuticle. Alternatively, your nail tech may recommend pushing back the cuticles so that the artificial nails sit flush with the rest of the finger.

However, pushing back the cuticles isn’t ideal either. Though most nail salons do it, it’s neither healthy nor safe.

For instance, the American Academy for Dermatology (AAD) warns that cuticles protect natural nails and skin. Therefore, pushing them back opens the door for bacteria and germs to attack the nails, possibly causing infections.

So, it is best to leave the cuticles alone. Nevertheless, a professional manicurist can slightly push them back without damaging them.

Why do Fake Nails not Go Under your Cuticles?

Fake nails don’t go under your cuticles because lifting the cuticles increases the risk of inflammation or, worse, cuticle damage. Cuticle irritation often goes away after a short period, though intense itchiness may last a day or two. However, cuticle damage is worse.

For instance, torn cuticles are very painful. Moreover, it may cause infections like paronychia, a bacterial infection characterized by painful red skin at the base of the nail.

What Happens if Acrylic Nails Go Under Your Skin?

A few things will happen if acrylic nails go under your skin;

  1. Acrylic is an irritant that causes redness and peeling when it comes in contact with the skin. You may also notice swelling around the nail. 
  2. You must lift the cuticles to install nails under the skin. Unfortunately, lifting the cuticles is painful and may cause the skin to tear, increasing the risk of bacterial infections. It also irritates nail beds.
  3. Lifting the cuticles attracts water and moisture under the skin, increasing the risk of fungal and bacterial infections.

How Are Acrylic Nails Inserted at the Nail Salon 

The complete process for installing acrylics and other artificial nails, including gel and powder dip nails, is lengthy and varies depending on the type of nails and the customer’s preferences.

Nonetheless, the basic steps are similar;

  1. Nail prepping: This step involves removing existing nail polish or gel polish (also known as gel nail polish) by washing your hands in acetone and gently stripping the material from the natural nail. Then the nail technician trims and files your nail, pushes back the cuticles, and buffs the nails.
  2. Add nail extensions or tips: To extend the nails, a nail technician glues nail tips or flexible forms to the healthy nails using nail glue and shapes them as desired.
  3. Add primer: Nail primer improves adhesion, ensuring the false nails stay in place for a long time without falling off.
  4. Apply the acrylics: The nail tech creates a ball by dipping a nail brush into the liquid monomer and then into a bottle of acrylic powder. Then they apply the ball onto the natural nail and tips (where present) and use the brush to shape the false nails. Then they let the acrylics cure.
  5. Finishing up: Many customers love to decorate their artificial nails. For instance, you can paint your acrylics boldly or add nail art. Using a nail pen, you can also add a coat of glitter polish or designs to the nail. Finally, apply cuticle oil to hydrate the cuticles and the surrounding skin.

Why do Acrylic Nails Hurt the First Day 

Acrylic nails, and other fake nails, often hurt for the first several hours or a few days after installation. This is for various reasons as follows;

  • The impact of filing down: A thinner nail plate resulting from the file-down process naturally feels painful until it acclimatizes to the new conditions.
  • Excessive pressure from the application process: The nail tech must apply pressure to ensure proper adhesion. Unfortunately, more pressure often means more pain.
  • The weight of the acrylics: Fake nails put extra weight on the natural nails, causing significant discomfort.
  • Cuticle irritation: Expect a little pain if the technician pushes back your cuticles and intense pain if cuticles tear or crack. 
  • Allergic reaction: Some individuals are allergic to acrylic nail chemicals. So, they experience swelling, redness, and itchiness after acrylic installation. 

How to Stop Itchy Cuticles After Acrylic Nails? 

Stopping the pain from acrylic nails starts with the correct installation. That’s why acrylic nails applied by a professional nail tech hurt less.

For instance, the technician must find out if the client is allergic to specific chemicals and seek alternative solutions. Also, a professional manicurist knows when to push back the cuticles and when to leave them as-is.

But, more importantly, they understand how to push back cuticles without damaging the skin, nail plate, or nail bed.

Next, if the process involves removing acrylic nails or other artificial nails, care must be taken to avoid damaging the natural nails. Otherwise, the removal process leaves you with brittle nails that hurt badly after the installation.

Besides the above prevention tips, consider the following guidelines to stop itchy cuticles after acrylic nails;

  1. Soak your hands in warm water: Prepare a bowl of warm water and add a teaspoon of salt and 3-4 drops of camomile oil. Then, soak your hands in the solution for ten minutes, 2-3 times a day, until the pain disappears.
  2. Apply cuticle oil regularly: Cuticle oil addresses common issues like dry skin or irritation around the nail. Apply liberal amounts 2-3 times daily to soothe the pain and treat the problem. Hand lotion and moisturizers work the same way.
  3. See a professional: See your nail tech or a doctor if the pain persists. They may provide better pain relievers or advise you to remove the fake nails.

Do Acrylic Nails Destroy your Real Nails? 

Unfortunately, yes. An acrylic manicure may destroy your actual nails. The acrylics themselves are not a problem. However, installation and removal can cause various injuries, including nail infections.

For instance, the initial prep work involves aggressively filing the nail plate to provide a rough surface for adhesion. Unfortunately, over-filing leaves the nail too thin, inviting bacterial infection. Similarly, pushing back the cuticles too far may invite nail infections.

In addition, fake nails often trap moisture between the nail plate and the artificial nail. The moisture can cause brittle nails or infections.

What are the Nails that Go Under your Skin 

The nail under the skin is known as hyponychium. It grows under the nail’s free edge and is located at the distal end of the nail bed, forming a germ and debris barrier.

However, the nail occasionally grows into the hyponychium, causing intense pain and serious discomfort. Such nails are known as ingrown nails.

Can Acrylics Cause Ingrown Nails?

Typically, it doesn’t. This is especially true for acrylic nails on the fingernails. Unfortunately, acrylic nails may cause ingrown nails in the toes.

The problem is easy to notice but often goes unnoticed on toenails if you mostly wear closed shoes. The hyponychium will attach to the nail and grow around and over it. Therefore, you may notice a section of acrylic nails sitting under the skin.

Perhaps you’re wondering how it’s possible. It all has to do with the rigidity of acrylic nails. Acrylic nails are extra rigid. They do not bend. This is unlike natural nails that bend easily to take the shape of your shoes.

Now, imagine wearing tight shoes over acrylic toes! Initially, your body will respond by sending pain signals warning you to address the problem. Later the area will swell and redden, again a distress signal. 

However, the body learns to live with the problem if you don’t fix it. So, gradually, the skin around the affected area thickens, growing around and over the intruding acrylic toes. Before you know it, you have ingrown nails!

This problem is rare in fingernails. However, it may happen if you wear a tight material over acrylic fingernails over an extended period.

For instance, wearing a medical plaster over acrylic nails for a week or longer can cause ingrown nails. Fortunately, professional health providers know better.

How to Prevent Acrylic Nails Under your Skin

The first step to preventing nails from growing under the skin is to let your nails breathe and grow naturally without inhibition.

For instance, avoid tight shoes or gloves. Also, if you must wear gloves and closed shoes, only do it during the day.

Additionally, consider the following;

  • Limit fake nails on toenails: You can wear toenail acrylics for occasions and special events. But please don’t keep them for weeks or months. Instead, consider regular nail polish for the toenails.
  • Practice healthy nail filing habits: Acrylic nail installation involves lots of filing and shaping. Please, do it properly. For instance, don’t leave sharp or pointed sections, as these can trigger inward nail growth.
  • Don’t apply acrylics to ingrown nails: Suppose you have an ongoing ingrown nail issue. In that case, fix the problem before wearing acrylics or other artificial nails. Speak to your doctor about an in-house procedure. Then allow the finger or toe to heal fully before resuming acrylics.

Treating Nails Under the Skin

Soaking the affected toes or nails helps relieve the pain and may allow the problem to self-resolve. Additionally, apply cuticle oil over the nail and surrounding skin to soothe the pain and moisturize the region.

If these remedies don’t work, see a doctor. Often, the doctor will recommend a corticosteroid to treat nail psoriasis or an antifungal (typically oral) for fungal infections.


Acrylic nails don’t go under the skin. They also don’t go over the skin or cuticles. Instead, they begin at the cuticles or leave a small gap in the cuticle area.

Therefore, if you notice acrylic nails under your skin or cuticles, inform your nail technician immediately or see a doctor.

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