Do Nails Need To Breathe?

Raise your hands if you’ve been told that wearing too much nail polish can damage your nails. No matter how visually appealing gel nails, acrylics, or dip powder manicures are, they still have a reputation for being detrimental to one’s natural nails. Most people will advise you to allow your nails to breathe. But how factually correct is this advice?

Your nail’s essential function is to protect your fingers from mechanical stress and injuries. But do your nails actively draw in the air to breathe, or does putting on nail extensions prevent them from receiving oxygen? Let’s find out this and more.

Do Nails Breathe? 

No — not in the literal sense, at least. According to Dr. Dana Stern, a New York City-based dermatologist, “nails do not need to breathe…this is a myth! Nails receive their nutrient, oxygen, and blood supply from the bloodstream, not from the air.” So basically, nothing comes from environmental sources to nourish your nails.

Applying any coating on your nails, whether clear polish or an acrylic full set, prevents the moisture and natural oils your body produces from evaporating through your nail plate, thus increasing the moisture level. So wearing them isn’t a bad thing. However, the danger comes from improper application or using harsh products that can damage the integrity of your nails.

Do Nails need a Break from Nail Polish? 

Just like wearing too much makeup every time isn’t ideal for your skin, the same goes for your nails. This is why a professional nail technician would recommend you let your nails “breathe” once in a while. Back-to-back nail processes that involve gluing or painting on layers of chemical products can take a toll on your nails.

Letting your nails breathe is synonymous with taking a break from faux nails and polishes. If you notice rough, white patches on your nails, peeling, ridges, splits, discoloration, or dehydrated cuticles, these are all tale tell signs that your nail’s health has been compromised from too much polish. So, we advise you to take a break, as time without polish can give your natural nail plate a chance to repair itself.

Do Nails need a Break from Gel Polish? 

Luxury comes in different forms, and one of these is treating yourself to a gel manicure. One of the reasons it is a crowd’s favorite is because of its durability. A gel manicure can stay chip-free for weeks, and let’s remember its beautiful designs.

Unfortunately, wearing gel polish for an extended period of time can allow chemicals in the polish to seep into the nail bed, causing it to be brittle, discolored, split, or peel. That’s not all. Gel manicures can be more physically damaging to remove than regular polish. To have healthy, beautiful nails, you must care for them. So taking a break is important to allow your nails “breathe.”

Do Nails need a Break from Acrylic?

Like gel nails, an acrylic manicure is a long-lasting nail enhancement option. When done by a professional nail technician and with the right aftercare advice, it shouldn’t wreak havoc on your nails. However, an improper application process can cause thin and damaged nails. Also, rough removal can cause your nail to lift or detach from the nail bed.

So do you need a break from acrylic manicures? Yes, you do, and with good cause. Acrylics require you to roughen up the surface of your nails to remove oil so that the acrylic products adhere to your nails. This can cause your nail beds to wear and tear over time. So, take a break after continuous wear so that your nails can strengthen and prevent further damage. 

Why Do Nails Need a Break from Polish?

Manicures are the perfect confidence boost you need on some bad days. It not only makes you feel put-together but hitting the nail salon is an opportunity for you to treat yourself and relax. However, piling on nail services can harm your nails more than good.

That’s not to say wearing them is bad. However, just like the rest of your body, you must do well to keep your nails healthy. After all, your nails offer insight into the overall state of your health. You should allow your nails to rest from polish for many reasons.

For one, different brands of nail polish, acetone, or artificial nails contain various potentially toxic and irritating chemicals, including alcohol, camphor, artificial fragrances, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde. When these products are applied constantly to your nails, it diminishes your health. Note that your preferred polish will not deprive your nails of oxygen, but it can surely irritate them. 

Bare Nails vs. Painted Nails 

Without a doubt, well-groomed naked nails are visually appealing. Going natural and polish-free is a way to add a clean look to your appearance and express your natural beauty. On the other hand, painted nails add some oomph to your look, giving you more chic vibes. But which is better for your nail health?

The hard truth is that we believe in well-groomed bare nails, and the reason is not so far-fetched. The effects of liquid monomer and powder polymer, which combine to make up acrylics, can cause weakness or sensitivities in your nail bed over time. The same goes for certain gel polish. Also, remember some toxins like formaldehyde, toluene, etc., which can easily absorb into your nail cells.

However, with bare natural nails that are well-maintained, you can withstand cracks, bends, or tears. But you must take proper care to ensure moisture balance in the nail plate to encourage nail growth. Keep your nails hydrated with cuticle oil, and use a quality hand sanitizer to get rid of bacteria, amongst other self-care.

How Long should you Let your Nails Breathe Between Acrylics? 

The material you apply to your natural nails contributes to the extent of the nail damage. Acrylic nails are strong, and they can last a few weeks with the right care. However, they begin to grow out, and if not properly maintained, they can begin to lift, crack or peel.

When it comes to acrylics, the culprit here is the removal process. Your nail tech may not take the necessary time to remove your acrylic nails in a way that won’t negatively affect your nail plate. Soaking your nails in acetone too long can cause dry nails or brittleness. Similarly, vigorous scraping to remove the acrylics can result in weak nails, bruises, peeling, or cracking.

It’s best to let your nails heal and grow out before your next appointment. Fingernails take four to six months to grow completely from your cuticle to the tip. While you can give a good break for that duration, you also don’t have to wait that long if you can’t. A three- to four-week break can allow your nails to rehydrate and discoloration to fade. Also, use over-the-counter medications and vitamin supplements to treat your nails.

What Happens If your Nails Don’t Breathe? 

Your nail beds, which are the hard polishable area of your fingernails are made up of keratin. Again, your nails don’t need surface air access because they get nutrients and oxygen from your bloodstream. However, your nails need a break because over-manicuring and using below-par quality products can cause your nail beds to thin.

Also, excessive use of polish remover and applying superficial layers can take a toll on your nails. If you don’t give it a deserved rest, you expose your nails to various problems. For example, your nails can become discolored due to the pigmentation in polishes. Also, curing your nails under UV rays can potentially harm the keratin in your nails.

Letting these problems build-up is not a good idea to let these problems build up as they can progress into more complex damage. Therefore, we advise removing your polish about two to three weeks after application. If you notice any sign of damage, then your nails need to breathe for some time.

Why do Nails Hurt When you Put on or Take off Nail Polish? 

It is not uncommon to hear many complain about pain when having polish on or after taking it off. Besides protecting your fingers from environmental factors, your nails say a lot about your well-being. Your nail pain is often not linked to severe or underlying health conditions. Instead, it may be caused by regular manicures, injuries, or irritation, which can resolve on their own or with treatment.

Healthy nail color should be shiny and pink and shouldn’t hurt. However, if they hurt or have an unusual color, it may be due to many reasons. For example, if your acrylic nail cracks or lifts, it can create a gap that traps moisture or dirt. When fungus enters your injury, fungal infection can arise, causing pain and discomfort.

Also, nail salons lacking high standards can leave your nails at risk for pain. Many leave their tools exposed to bacteria, and in the process, can infect you. Also, in most cases, to apply acrylics, a nail tech might begin by cutting down your cuticle and filing down your nails. This can not hurt you and leave your nails prone to infections.

Furthermore, nail polish removal contains chemicals that can leave your nails dried out, resulting in hangnails or ingrown nails, which can cause pain. So take care to maintain good nail hygiene and only use nail professionals.

Signs your Nails Need a Break from Nail Polish 

Before booking your next gel or acrylic application, pause to look at natural nails. If you notice any of these signs, you may need a breather.

Brittle Nails

Constantly applying products laden with harsh ingredients can rid your nail beds of moisture. Are your nails easily splitting and peeling, or are they generally weak? If yes, then you need a break from polish.

Thin Nails

Thin, flimsy nails are a sign of nail problems. As mentioned earlier, regular manicures can dehydrate your nail and thin your nail beds. Also, excessive exposure to water can thin your nails. If you wash your hands frequently or without gloves, your nails can lose their durability. So if your nails start to break easily or become bendier, it needs a good break.

Keratin Granulations

Leaving your nail polish for too long can lead to a condition called keratin granulation. It is harmless but can occur when your fingernails are severely dehydrated or react to harsh chemicals in nail polishes. It can also result from soaking your fingernails in acetone nail remover, as the superficial layers of your nail cells may also be removed by mistake.

Nail Yellowing

The usual color of your fingernails should be pink and shiny. A good base coat can shield the nail from the yellowing effects of nail polish and increase the longevity of your manicure. However, some people’s nails are more porous and prone to yellowing. Dark or deeply pigmented nail polishes can change your nail color to yellow, orange, or brittle.

White Patches

White patches or spots could be a telltale sign of mineral deficiency. But if you notice spots in your nails after removing polish, it could mean your nails are dehydrated. It can also be a sign of physical damage from gel or acrylics.

Ridges and Bumps

Sun exposure, nutritional imbalances, and overall aging are common signs of ridges and bumps in fingernails. However, if you notice bumps or ridges after your nail manicure, it may just result from harsh gel or acrylic removal. So instead of covering the ridges with a new set, take a break.

How to Keep your Nails Healthy Between Manicures 

Getting a manicure every day may not be feasible. However, between your manicure appointments, you can take steps to keep your nails looking and feeling their best. If your nails don’t look as smooth, hydrated, or their usual healthy color, you can do a few things to resolve it.

Let them Breathe

The best thing you can do for your fingernails is to give them a few weeks to breathe after removing polish, fake nails, or nail art. Plus, apply nail treatment to keep them strong and sturdy for the next appointment.

Hydrate Your Nails

Everyone knows drinking water is super important for your skin and overall health. Well, the same rule applies to your nail health. Use cuticle oil or moisturizing argan oil to keep your cuticles and nail beds moisturized and nourished and prevent annoying hangnails from forming.

Stop Picking

During your break between manicures, resist the urge to bite or pick at your cuticles/nails, especially if you have a gel coat. This can help prevent any nail damage, and if you notice any sign of infection, check in with your doctor asap.

Wear Gloves

Immersing your hands with water all the time can weaken even the strongest nails. It can cause your nails and the surrounding skin to dry out. Instead, protect your nails by wearing gloves when you wash dishes or scrub.

Hand Lotions

Massage your hands with good hand lotions to keep your manicure looking good. Also, it can help minimize brittleness and prevent your nails from chipping.


While needing your natural nails to breathe may be a myth, taking polish breaks is necessary. If you are obsessed with manicures and wondering if your nails need to breathe, then the above explanations should guide you through all you need to know. Fake nails, remover, applying polish, or applying acrylic regularly can adversely affect your natural nails.

Keeping healthy nails benefits your natural nail plate and your general well-being. So if you notice damage or any of the signs we highlighted above, your nails may just be begging for a breather. Do well to give it a break; this can save your nails and save you a few dollars.

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