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What Causes Acrylic Nail Pain?

Updated April 17, 2017

Acrylic nails are worn for special occasions or on a daily basis. Unlike natural nails, acrylic nails are durable and strong. They provide women with the appearance of flawless and perfectly shaped nails, even if they do not have them naturally. Though acrylic nails are beautiful to look at, some women experience pain after having nails applied.

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Nail Snag

One of the more common causes of acrylic nail pain is snagging the nail. This is done when a woman is trying to grip something or even open a car door and the nail gets caught. Since the acrylic powder is adhered directly to the real nail, this can be very painful. A nail snag can also cause a crack, chip or break off the entire nail. The pain can last for a few minutes or a few days, depending on the extent of the damage.

Crack in Acrylic

Cracks occur when an acrylic nail is snagged on something or encounters too much pressure. If a crack is severe enough, it can crack not only the acrylic base, but the real nail under the base. This causes redness, swelling and pain, which can last for a few days. In the event the crack is severe, the acrylic nail must be removed so that the natural nail can heal before reapplying the acrylic nail, according to Hooked on Nails.

Bacteria or Fungal Infection

Acrylic nails have a habit of lifting from the base of the real nail. When this occurs, the gap between the acrylic nail and the real nail is left open to dirt and water. If the exposed area is not cleaned, bacteria and fungi can grow, according to MayoClinic.com. Unsanitary nail salon equipment is also a culprit for bacterial and fungal infections in acrylic nails, which is why it is important to use reputable nail salons that frequently sanitise their equipment. Bacteria and fungal infections cause redness, pain and pus around the base of the nail and the natural nail will begin to discolour, according to MedicineNet.

Allergic Reaction

In rare cases, a woman can suffer from contact dermatitis, which is an allergic reaction to the acrylic nail, according to MayoClinic.com. The adhesives and materials used in acrylic nails can be harsh to those with sensitive skin, and the result is an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions cause redness, swelling and pain on the acrylic nail.


When acrylic nails are applied, the natural nail is filed down to make a coarse surface for the acrylic base to stick to. According to Hooked on Nails, when the natural nail is filed down too far, it can cause redness and pain. Over-filing can also wear down the natural foundation of the nail, which can cause further pain if a nail is snagged or cracked.

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About the Author

Shailynn Krow began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous online and offline publications. Krow holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Associate of Science in pastry arts from the International Culinary Institute of America.

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