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Ladies with nails?

Posts: 22
Joined: Mar 2012

I have a question. Prior to cancer, I had acrylic overlay on my nails. I can grow long nails, but they break one by one. I do a lot of outdoor stuff, not to mention cleaning, and the overlay kept them nice. Does anyone out there still have "fake" nails? I want to get them again, but I am paranoid about anything that could remotely bring about lymphedema. Thus far, I have dodged that bullet. Have been through chemo and am finishing radiation; any input would be appreciated. There are many things I did b.c. (before cancer) like tanning beds, etc. that I will never do again, but nails? It was my one little splurge as I have never smoked and very rarely drink anymore. Thanks.

Ctine70's picture
Posts: 150
Joined: Sep 2012

I too had acrylic nails and currently in chemo. I asked my onco at my last visit how long after chemo I need to wait before I can put them back on and she said three to four months after chemo is completed I can go back to the acrylic nails.
Hope that helps
Hugs Christine

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

As a nurse practitioner, I will never recommend acrylic nails.

I don't even like the idea of nail salons in general as, in my personal experience, they are not well regulated and, chances are, you are going to be much more likely to get an infection than not. I doubt any of them have a clue as to how to properly sterilize anything. Being immunocompromised and going to one is risky, in my humble opinion.

If you have to go to one, bring your own tools and, if you have a pedicure, carry a small bottle of bleach and add a few drops to the water in which your feet will soak. Don't let them use any razor-like tools to remove dead skin. Don't let them cut cuticles.

The acrylics do increase your risk of infection (and your risk of spreading infection to others). As a neonatal nurse practitioner, I remember in 2000 when an outbreak of 16 neonatal deaths from the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa was traced back to articial nails. Since then, all hospitals have banned the use of articial nails.

From the Mayo Clinic:

"Sometimes a gap develops between the acrylic nail and the natural nail. If the acrylic nail is bumped or jarred, it can separate from the natural nail. This gap provides a moist, warm environment in which a nail infection can flourish. A nail infection might also occur if acrylic nails are too long or too rigid, or the nails are applied with unsanitary tools. If you develop a nail infection, your natural nail might become thick or ragged and appear discolored.

It's also possible to have an allergic reaction to components of acrylic nails or the adhesives used to apply them. This can result in redness, swelling and pain around the nail.

If you choose to have acrylic nails applied in a salon, take steps to minimize the risks:
Stick to salons that display a current state license, and work only with technicians also licensed by the state board.
Be wary if you notice fumes. A strong odor could be a sign that the salon is poorly ventilated.
Make sure your nail technician properly sterilizes all tools used during your treatment and washes his or her hands between customers.
Soak your nails in a fresh bowl of soapy water before treatment begins.
Don't allow your cuticles to be pushed back or trimmed. This can increase the risk of a nail infection.
Don't allow the surface of your natural nails to be filed or roughened before the acrylic nails are applied. This weakens your natural nails.
Request a new nail file — or consider bringing your own, since nail files can't be sterilized."


cathyp's picture
Posts: 365
Joined: Dec 2009

Four weeks ago, I used a gift certificate to get gel nail polish, applied like any other nail polish over your own nails, that is set by UV rays. I read up about protecting your hand's skin from the uv's among a list of other recommendations. Also, I didn't let them cut my cuticles. CypressCynthia, what is your opinion about this alternative?
PS: the french manicure I got lasted 4 wks and the polish protected my nails from breaking

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

I think the very best thing is hand lotion with UV protection. I do not use polish and keep my nails trimmed. I am very jealous of pretty nails though...lol.

I think polish, applied at home, is a safer alternative to acrylic nails. Over the years, I have visited many salons and I have yet to see one practicing safely: most are crowded, high volume; I have never seen a technician wash their hands prior to placing their hands on you (which they should do whether they wear gloves or not); their polishes and tools are often downright disgusting; I suffered a toenail fungal infection directly after visiting one (something I had never had before) and have since seen many others (from all parts of the country) with fungal and bacterial infections from salons.

The argument that polish protects your nails was promoted by nurses themselves (who wanted pretty nails too ;-)) for years, but studies have not born this out. Most hospitals have banned polish and artificial nails. Both can harbor more bacteria and microorganisms than a naked nail.

Acetone and polish removers can be damaging to the nail. Chipped polish definitely harbors more bacteria.

Healthcare workers have to wash their hands about 20 X a shift so no polish or acrylics will stay intact. However, I do recognize that most ladies are not subjecting their hands to the serious handwashing that I do. ;-)

Polish is light years safer than acrylic nails. Most of the deadly infections that killed patients came from acrylic nails (actually I believe that all did). When I see the acrylics, I cringe, because I know they are teaming with microorganisms-especially in my humid state of Lousiana. BTW, one study from the American Society of Microbiology found the dreaded MRSA super bug can live for 8 weeks in acrylic nails. Just what a cancer patient needs!

"A study to determine the survival of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on environmental surfaces found in health care settings showed that the organism can persist for days or weeks. MRSA survivors remained at detectable levels (<10 survivors per coupon) for 8 weeks on acrylic fingernails, 6 weeks on computer keyboard covers and 5 days on bed linen." http://www.asm.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5975

See another study on artificial nails below:

"RESULTS. In study 1, potential pathogens were isolated from more samples obtained from artificial nails than native nails (92% vs 62%; P<.001). Colonization of artificial nails increased over time; by day 15, 71% of cultures yielded a pathogen compared with 21% on day 1 (P=.004). A significantly greater quantity of organisms (expressed as mean log10 colony‐forming units�standard deviation) was isolated from the subungual area than the nail surface; this was noted for both artificial (5.0�1.4 vs 4.1�1.0; P<.001) and native nails (4.9�1.3 vs 3.7�0.8; P<.001). More organisms were found on the surface of artificial nails than native nails (P=.008), but there were no differences noted in the quantities of organisms isolated from the subungual areas. In study 2, HCWs wearing artificial nails were more likely to have a pathogen isolated than controls (87% vs 43%; P=.001). More HCWs with artificial nails had gram‐negative bacilli (47% vs 17%; P=.03) and yeasts (50% vs 13%; P=.006) than control HCWs. However, the quantities of organisms isolated from HCWs wearing artificial nails and controls did not differ.

Artificial fingernails were more likely to harbor pathogens, especially gram‐negative bacilli and yeasts, than native nails. The longer artificial nails were worn, the more likely that a pathogen was isolated. Current recommendations restricting artificial fingernails in certain healthcare settings appear justified." http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/501794

AngieD's picture
Posts: 504
Joined: Sep 2011

Have you tried Biotin to strengthen you nails? This was recommended by a dermatologist as being good for nails and hair. I finished chemo in June and my toenails are still a mess. My fingernails used to be very weak. But after chemo, I started taking Biotin daily and my fingernails have never been better.


Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2014

Hi. I have been looking for information from medical professionals on this topic. I am a consultant for a nail wrap company...not trying to sell them here though so I won't mention the name. My sister and neice are both in Chemo, but they would like to have pretty nails. Are wraps you put on at hope a bad thing too? Many are clear with designs so the nail bed is still visable . Thanks for the information.

Posts: 110
Joined: Oct 2012

remove my acrylic nails prior to chemo starting. You definitely can NOT go get nails filled while you are on chemo. Too much risk of infection. Best to just ditch them during the process.

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