Artificial nails are popular all around the world. But unfortunately for this fashion accessory, artificial nails can also make an easier targets for fungal nail infections. Keep your nails safe by getting the scoop on the causes, treatment, and prevention of artificial nail fungus below.
Types of Artificial Nails
Artificial nails come in many shapes and sizes, the three most common types being acrylic, gel, and silk wrap.
Acrylic Nails are the most popular nail type, especially for longer term usage. They're applied by mixing a liquid and a powder and brushing it onto the nail or nail tips, where the solution then hardens. Acrylic nails grow out with the nail, and need to be maintained every 2-3 weeks to file the nail and fill in gaps where the nail grows.
Gel nails have a nail polish like consistency and are brushed onto the nail or nail tips, and then must be placed under an ultraviolet light to harden. Gels are similar to acrylics in that they need to be maintained every 2-3 weeks as the nails grows, but are typically more expensive as a result of being more durable.
Silk Wrap Nails
Silk wrap nails are more temporary than acrylics and gels, and are generally used to strengthen weakened or cracked nails. Silk nails can be made of silk, paper, linen, or fiberglass fabric, and are applied by wrapping around the nail and glueing in place. The glue generally loosens within 2 to 3 weeks, at which point they need to be removed or reapplied.
Causes of Artificial Nail Fungus
Acrylic nails are more susceptible to fingernail fungus since they're generally worn for longer periods of time and can become damaged more easily. There are 3 common ways artificial nail fungus can develop:
- Poor nail fit or installation
- Damage to the artificial nail
- Bad hygiene
Bad Nail Fit or Installation
Fingernail fungus often develops because the nail is not fitted correctly or was applied poorly, leaving a space between the artificial nail and the natural nail bed. If the artificial nail can't seal tightly to the natural nail, this space can create an ideal environment where moisture can enter and fungus can grow, infecting the nail and nail bed.
If the nail is struck or is damaged at any point, it can become dislodged and lose its seal, creating a gap where fungus can grow. Acrylic nails can also chip or crack, opening spaces where fungus can get in take hold.
Bad hygiene is a common culprit for developing nail fungus with artificial nails. Nail salons in particular can be a breeding ground for fungus, because if the tools aren't sanitized properly, they can easily spread infections between customers.
If nails aren't maintained on a regular basis, it can also lead to nail fungus. As the natural nail grows out, the artificial nail grows with it, which can create spaces between the new nail and the artificial nail that fungus can infect.
Preventing Artificial Nail Fungus
It's important to be safe and practice healthy hygiene with artificial nails to avoid contracting a fungal nail infection. Here are a few ways to ensure your nails stay healthy:
- Change nails every 2-3 weeks
- Clean nails thoroughly between applications
- If you suspect a nail has dislodged, remove it and replace with a new nail
- Do not wear nails for more than 3 months continuously
- Let natural nails rest for a time after continuous usage
- If your job requires that you submerge your hands in water for extended periods of time, avoid getting artificial nails
- Do not apply an artificial nail if the surrounding skin is irritated or red
- Go to a trained nail technician for artificial nail installation
- Ensure your nail salon and technician use strict sanitary practices
Artificial Nail Fungus Treatment
If you suspect you may have contracted a fungal nail infection, remove the artificial nail immediately and clean the area. Do not cover the fungus with a new artificial nail. Some people do this to hide an unsightly looking nail, but the nail fungus will not heal on its own. Placing an artificial nail on top just allows the fungus to grow undisturbed, preventing any treatment attempts from reaching the fungus.
Once a fungal nail infection has been diagnosed, treatment options include:
- Topical treatments
- Oral antifungal drugs
- Laser treatment
Topical antifungal medicine is the most popular way to treat nail fungus because it's inexpensive, easy to use, and can be acquired without a prescription. Some topical fungus treatments contain harsh chemicals that can damage the nail, so seek brands that use natural, proven ingredients.
Oral Antifungal Drugs
Oral antifungal drugs are another popular treatment for nail fungus, but have some drawbacks as well. Most of these are available only with a prescription, making them more difficult and pricey to obtain. The bigger issue with oral antifungals is that they're often very harsh on the liver and kidneys, and do not mix well with other medicines.
Laser antifungal treatment has become more popular in recent years and demonstrated some effectiveness. The drawbacks with laser treatment is that it's much more expensive than topical and oral treatments, and hasn't been extensively studied to verify long term effects and effectiveness in treating nail fungus.