Nope, it’s not just you. The throbbing and sore pain you feel after getting your acrylic nails is a real and commonly shared experience.
It’s not even only my clients, but I see it on online forums and message boards where women have posed variations of the same question: “do acrylic nails hurt?” or “why do my nails hurt after getting acrylics?”
While you can find different answers to these questions, the truth is that there are many reasons why acrylic nails hurt.
However, the most likely culprit is the tightening sensation caused by acrylic forming a firm seal over your natural nails. Fortunately, the sensation eventually goes away once the acrylic has fully hardened.
But why does this odd phenomenon happen in the first place? Can you do anything to prevent it?
In this article, let’s learn more about why acrylic nails hurt and how something simple as applying cuticle oil before and after fixing acrylics can help prevent the pain.
Do Acrylic Nails Hurt?
Everyone experiences acrylic nails differently. Some people may feel pain after the application, and others may not feel anything at all.
Most people getting acrylic treatment for the first time feel a tightening sensation during and after application because the acrylic forms a firm seal over their nails. But the pain or discomfort is normal.
Additionally, the disagreeable sensation comes from your acrylic pulling your natural nails. Your nail tech must file and smoothen your natural nails to create a coarse that easily adheres to the falsies.
But the filed and smoothened real nail becomes weak, making any pulling effect from your acrylic painful.
Any pain or discomfort caused by acrylics is short-lived. Most people report that any burning sensations dissipate within 24 hours.
During this time, you can feel like the acrylic is tugging the skin around the cuticles. It’s also common to experience some soreness and throbbing pain under acrylic nails.
Is it Normal for Nails to Hurt after Acrylics?
A tightening or burning sensation is a normal side effect of wearing acrylic nails. The discomfort can start during or after getting your nails done and is predominantly common in people getting acrylic treatment for the first time or those who don’t go for acrylic often.
The discomfort typically disappears within 24 hours, and acrylic pain rarely lasts longer than a week.
Ultimately, all these side effects are typically mild. Unless you are allergic to acrylics or there is temporary or permanent damage to the natural nail, it shouldn’t cause any hindrance to normal life.
Why Do Acrylic Nails Hurt?
Acrylics hurt because your natural nails are trying to adapt and attach to the fake nails. Natural nails are filed during nail preparation for acrylics, but they become weak. A glue makes it stick to acrylics, creating a pulling effect that causes pain. The pain is temporary and usually disappears in 24 hours.
There are several possible reasons why your acrylic nails might be hurting. Let’s look at the main ones and how to deal with them.
1. You are New to Acrylic Nails
In most cases, applying acrylics on your nails doesn’t hurt unless you are new to them. It takes between 1 to 2 hours to get acrylics done.
The process involves preparing your natural nails before the acrylics are fixed. In between your natural nails and acrylics is a glue that helps them stick.
You may feel discomfort when your nails are filed and prepared during the application. However, this pain usually disappears even before your nails are done.
The most common and noticeable pain happens a few minutes or hours after acrylics are fixed. You’ll experience a burning sensation, soreness, and throbbing pain in your nails.
The pain will last 24 hours unless your natural nails are damaged. During that time, your nails will get used to the feeling of your new acrylics. The acrylics put pressure on your natural nails as they tighten and dry. This pressure takes some time to get used to.
2. Over- Filing Down Natural Nails
One of the important steps to gorgeous acrylic nails is filing natural nails. This is important because it makes the acrylics adhere firmly and last longer.
Dead skin around the cuticles, natural oils, and moisture from the nail are all removed during the nail prep.
However, when you are new to acrylic life, you may feel a burning sensation or pain when the nail tech is filing your natural nails. The burning sensation comes from the friction of the bit on the nail, and it’s normal.
The filed nails are usually weak because the natural shine has been removed. So when acrylics are fixed over your natural nails and start to bond together, you feel the pain.
Thankfully the pain disappears when the acrylic has fully bonded, and your natural nail grows back its base.
3. Applying Thick Acrylics
Most amateur nail techs mess up your nails by glopping on thick acrylics. Too much viscosity will cause ridges, lumpiness, and an unnatural peel finish. Plus, it will make the enhancement prone to service breakdowns such as lifting and chipping.
But is that why your acrylic hurts? Unfortunately, no. Your acrylics hurt when you apply thick coats because your nails are not used to the added weight it holds. Moreover, thick enhancements take more time to dry.
The stress caused by the added weight and the long dry time can make you feel pain. And until your natural nails get used to the weight and the acrylic dries, the pain won’t disappear.
4. You are Allergic to Acrylics
It’s difficult for most people to believe that their acrylic nails hurt because they are allergic to them. While it can be far-fetched and seem like a silly reason, having an allergic reaction to acrylic nails is legit.
The most common potential allergen found in acrylics is the Methacrylate chemical used as a bonding agent in artificial nail products.
Most people react to this chemical and may experience redness, burning, and itching sensation around the nail bed. This reaction can start immediately after the acrylic is applied and last for several minutes or hours afterward.
Even though this allergy isn’t particularly severe, the symptoms and irritation caused by Methacrylate can disorient your day-to-day life.
As a result, you won’t only lose the motivation to get your nails done, but constant pain won’t be good for your nails.
5. You have Thin and Sensitive Nail Beds
Nails may hurt after getting acrylics because of the thin nail bed. The thinner your nail beds are, the more sensitive they are.
So, if you get acrylic nails, they put pressure on your nail bed, causing discomfort or even pain in some people.
The more damaged your nails are after getting acrylics, the higher the probability that thin nail beds are to blame for that discomfort or pain.
6. The Nail Tech Applied too Much Pressure when Fixing your Acrylics
When your acrylic nails are being fixed, too many nail techs apply too much pressure on your natural nails with no regard for the discomfort they are causing. This usually happens during nail prep, including filing, drilling, and shaping.
While these techs might not be intentionally putting too much pressure to hurt, it most often means they are amateurs.
Too much pressure can lead to redness, swelling, and blistering of the skin around your nails and can last for several hours or a few days.
So, if you experience pain when your acrylics are being fixed, it’s important to speak up and tell your technician to minimize the pressure they’re applying to your nails.
7. The Nail Technician Pushed Back your Cuticles
Nail prep is essential to getting long-lasting and professionally done acrylic nails. One of the steps is cuticle prep, where your cuticles are pushed back using a cuticle pusher.
And any cuticle remaining is removed from the nail plate using a scraper. All this is done to allow the product to adhere firmly to the nail plate.
The problem with pushing cuticles and removing the dead skin around them is that it causes pain.
While this is normal because the protective dead skin is removed, most professional nail techs will apply cuticle oil before pushing back the cuticles and fixing the acrylics. This will not only ease off the pain but also enhance recovery.
8. You could be Using too Harsh Nail Glue Products
We all want the perfect nails. But using the wrong nail glue can cause pain, soreness, and irritation to the nail bed.
One of the chemicals used in nail glue is Methyl Methacrylate (MMA). It’s a liquid adhesive that manicurists predominantly use to glue on fake nails. Unfortunately, it was banned by the Food and Drug Administration in the 1970s.
However, this liquid is still widely used by nail professionals and women all over the country. So keep an eye on the type of glue used on your nails because it might hurt them.
But don’t fret. The pain from these chemicals shouldn’t last for more than 24 hours.
9. The Curing Process of Acrylics can be Painful and Cause Discomfort
When you use regular nail polish with acrylics, they cure immediately when they come in contact with air.
However, when you use gel nail finishes on acrylics, your nails must be cured under a UV light. UV light dries and cures your nails by releasing excess heat.
This heat and the curing time can cause pain you feel on your nails before they eventually heal.
10. As Acrylic Dries, You Feel a Tightening Sensation
A special type of glue is used for acrylics to attach to your natural nails. As the glue dries and cures, the acrylics stick firmly to the nail bed. This process takes a few hours, and you will likely feel a tightening and burning sensation.
While the tightening sensation is normal for acrylic nail lovers, it can be painful for someone getting acrylic treatment for the first time.
However, unless your nail bed is injured or damaged by the acrylics, the pain will disappear within 24 hours.
If the pain persists for more than 24 hours, visit the nail tech to check your nails and chat about the best way forward or for the acrylics to be removed.
11. Injury or Damage to your Nail Bed
Be cautious when getting fake nails if you have any nail disorder, including brittle nail syndrome, onychomycosis, paronychia, nail psoriasis, etc. These conditions already make your nails vulnerable to chemicals used in nail products.
And if you are sure the product used on your nails is safe, the nail tech may apply thick coats of acrylics or put a lot of pressure on your nail bed.
All these actions can cause further damage to your nail bed, leading to pain and discomfort.
Types of Nail Injuries and Pain
Acrylic Nail Hurts when Pressed
Acrylic nails can hurt when pressed because of the strong adhesive used. The adhesive ensures the acrylic stays on your nails for as long as possible but, at the same time, causes pressure to build up between the acrylic and your natural nail, resulting in discomfort or pain.
The acrylics can also hurt and become more sensitive to pressure if they are too long, too thick, or applied incorrectly.
However, a more serious underlying cause, like an infection, an allergic reaction to acrylic nail products, inflammation, or tissue damage, needs treatment.
Throbbing Pain Under Acrylic Nails
You may experience throbbing pain after getting your nails done due to the acrylic forming a firm seal over your nails.
While the sensation can start during or after acrylic application, it’s completely normal and your body’s way of healing. The discomfort you are feeling is temporary. It will eventually go away.
The level of pain can be different from one person to another. For example, if you are new to acrylics, the pain can take a few days, but if you are used to acrylic, it will only take a few hours.
Until the pain has completely subsided, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers to minimize the pain.
Acrylic Nails Hurt After a Week
Mild burning sensation or discomfort is a normal side effect of getting acrylic nails. But you should only feel the discomfort immediately after the acrylic application or within 24 hours.
After that, the discomfort should disappear because acrylic nail pain rarely lasts longer than a week.
The pain should decrease and resolve after a few hours or days. However, if the pain persists or worsens, the nail bed might be damaged or infected.
You may need to see a nail tech to adjust the nails, so they are comfortable or remove them completely.
Why are My Nails Sore After Getting Acrylics?
During acrylic treatment, your natural nails are actively filed, and the top shined is removed. Over filing can make your nail plates overly flexible, weaken them and negatively affect adhesion.
This may trigger a burning sensation until the acrylics stick to your natural nails. The pain is normal and lasts for a few hours.
At each of your salon appointments, your nail tech has to prepare your natural nails. This usually involves filing, pushing back cuticles, and removing any remaining dead skin around the cuticles.
Depending on the nail tech who does the job, your nails can be overfiled. While the filing will ensure the acrylic adheres properly, over-filing usually leaves your nail plate thin, weak and overly exposed. A nail glue is applied and acts as the adhesive between your acrylic and natural nails.
Before the glue and the acrylic dry, you might feel a tightening or burning sensation because of a heat reaction. This heat reaction, together with the weight of your acrylic, can put a lot of pressure on your nails, causing soreness.
Some people don’t experience sore nails after regular acrylic appointments. But others feel pain immediately after getting their nails done or a few days after the application.
If you’re new to acrylics, there is some good news: after 24 hours, the soreness lessens. And your subsequent acrylic treatment may not hurt as much.
Why do My Nail Beds Hurt After Getting Acrylics?
Your nail beds can also start to hurt after getting acrylics because of the filing and buffing of natural nails in preparation for the fake ones.
During this process, your nail beds become thin, brittle, and parched, causing the pain and discomfort you feel when you apply pressure to them. However, the pain should naturally disappear after 24 hours.
Additionally, the chemicals in the acrylics can also be quite strong and may cause a stinging sensation when applied to your nails.
Why do My Cuticles Itch After Getting Acrylics?
Before acrylic is applied, your cuticles are pushed back, and all the translucent skin from the nail plate surface is removed.
This exposes your cuticles, making them vulnerable to methacrylate chemicals found in acrylics that cause severe, itchy rash anywhere on the body, not just the fingertips, according to the British Association of Dermatologists.
Cuticles itching after acrylics can be normal, but it can also mean you are allergic to fake nails.
According to a study in the UK and Ireland in 2017, at least 2.4% of 4,931 patients attending 13 dermatology units were allergic to Methacrylate.
How Long will My Nails Hurt After Getting Acrylics?
As with anything new, acrylic nails firmly bond with your natural nails, and a few hours after getting them done, you may feel a tightening or burning sensation.
This is normal and will settle after 24 hours unless there is temporary or permanent damage to your natural nails.
As we have discussed before, any low to mild discomfort you experience is perfectly normal and not anything to worry about.
However, if the pain continues for several days and after a week, visit the nearest nail salon and ask them to check your nails for damage or infection.
How to Stop Acrylic Nails from Hurting
If you are in pain after your nail appointment, you’re probably desperate and looking for ways to relieve the pain.
Following these tips will help you stop acrylic nail pain and feel better after getting them done.
1. Go for a Professional Nail Technician
The first step to stopping acrylic nails from hurting is ensuring a professional nail technician fixes your nails.
Hiring an experienced nail tech can help you avoid almost all the issues that make your nails hurt after getting acrylics.
The nail tech will not over-file your nails or put too much pressure on them during the treatment. They will use quality acrylic products and apply the nails with after effects in mind.
So, they will go easy on your natural nails, minimizing the pain you will feel after getting your nails done.
2. Apply Cuticle Oil
Cuticle oil is among the most effective ways to eliminate acrylic nail pain.
Cuticle oil helps hydrate the delicate tissue around your nails and gives them a nourishing boost. Moreover, it improves texture, reduces excess nail growth, prevents hangnails from forming, and protects against infection or disease.
Most experienced nail techs use cuticle oils before pushing back your cuticles. This is to prevent the cuticles from irritation by the glue and the products.
Cuticle oil can also be applied after the nail treatment to ease the tightening sensation and enhance recovery.
3. Use An Oral Pain Reliever
Taking oral painkillers is another great way to relieve acrylic pain. The most popular pain relievers for reducing pain and swelling are ibuprofen or naproxen. You can also use Acetaminophen as it’s best for pain, not swellings.
While you can buy these drugs without a prescription from a doctor, talk to your nail tech or doctor to recommend the correct amount so that you don’t overdose.
4. Apply Tea Tree Oil or Vicks VapoRub
If your nails are not done properly, they can lift, damage, or get infected.
When your nails start to lift, get damaged, or infected, moisture is trapped underneath, providing a conducive environment for bacteria and fungi.
Nails can also be infected if the equipment used during the treatment are not cleaned properly or sterilized.
Tea tree oil and Vicks VapoRub not only have healing properties but are also effective at inhibiting the growth of nail fungus. If you use them consistently for a few days, you should see results over time.
5. File or Cut Long Nails
Did you accidentally get your acrylic nails too long? Long nails don’t necessarily mean that you’ll feel pain. Instead, it means you will have difficulty carrying on with your daily activities.
Poorly fixed long acrylic nails are also prone to breakage, damage, and infection.
If your nails are more than a couple of millimeters from natural nails, you can cut them using a nail clipper or file them down using a file or drill.
6. Remove the Nails
If the pain is unbearable, sometimes it’s better to remove the nails altogether. This is especially important if the pain lasts more than a few weeks, you are allergic to acrylic nails, or the nails are infected.
Most people only know they are allergic to acrylic nails once they get them done. While allergies don’t mean the nails are infected, they can hinder you from completing your daily tasks.
On the other hand, infected nails can cause other complications. These may include fungal infection, nail discoloration, redness of the skin surrounding your nail, itching, and pain around the nails.
If you develop any of these complications, it’s better to visit your nail tech to remove the nails and ask for other alternatives. Sometimes you’ll be advised to avoid fake nails if you are allergic.
We’re not going to lie – getting acrylic nails hurt. But pain is a subjective thing, and how much acrylics hurt is personal. Some people can tolerate the pain, while others can’t.
Remember, where you get your nails done, the product used, and whether or not you’ve had your nails done before play a role in how the finished product will look and how much pain you’ll feel.
To avoid the pain after acrylics, pick a skilled, experienced nail tech to do your nails. You can also ask for aftercare options to help relieve the pain and heal your nail beautifully and painlessly.