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How Acrylic Nails Can Cause Fungus and How to Treat it

Acrylic nails are plastic nails glued to the top of your real nails to make them look longer. Fingernail fungus from acrylic nails is a fairly common problem, usually solved with home remedies or anti-fungal medication. But what are these treatments? And is there any way to prevent it? Let’s take a look…

Causes of acrylic nail fungus

Over 50% of all nail disorders are fungal infections and these infections are most common among people with acrylic nails.

Fungi grows and thrives in moist environments. If an acrylic nail is not attached properly by adhesive or becomes lose, then moisture will get trapped between the acrylic and the fingernail. Due to the nature of fungi, it is likely to grow in the water between the acrylic and the fingernail.

The fungi group dermatophytes are mainly responsible for fingernail fungus from acrylic nails. From that group Trichophyton rubrum fungus is the common culprit.

Another cause of fungal infections is contaminated equipment at nail salons. Additionally, nail polish has been found to breed fungi, therefore sharing nail polish isn’t recommended as it may increase your chances of infection.

Symptoms of fungal infections

Symptoms may not be immediately noticeable; they often develop over time. However, if an infection should get worse this is what you should look out for:

  • Thick or brittle nail
  • The nail smelling bad
  • Pain or soreness, particularly when pressure is put on the nail
  • Green fungus under the acrylic nail
  • Yellow, black, green, or white discolouration
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Itchiness

These are all signs of fungal infection and may indicate you need to give your nails a break from acrylics.

Nail fungus treatment

Many are lucky that nail fungus will clear up on its own, however there are some home remedies you can try to get of that green fungus under the acrylic nail. Before you try any treatments though, the first step after noticing an infection is to wash your nails with soap and water, also make sure the infection has cleared before putting on new nails.

If washing your nails doesn’t help here are remedies people claim have helped:

  • Soaking your finger in a 2:1 ratio of warm water to vinegar. Vinegar has an acid in it that helps prevents the growth of fungi and bacteria.
  • Research back in 2011 illustrated that Vicks VapoRub can help treat toenail fungus, therefore it may work for fingernails too. Try applying a small amount to the infected area once a day.
  • The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health conducted a small study attesting that tee tree oil may help with the treatment of nail fungus, by applying it twice a day. Nonetheless, more research is needed to be certain.
  • Oregano oil contains the chemical thymol, that contains antifungal properties. Applying the oil twice a day with a cotton swab could reduce fungal infection.
  • Soaking your finger in original Listerine mouthwash for 30 minutes a day has proven an effective method for some due to the antifungal properties some ingredients in Listerine have.

Medical nail fungus treatment is not recommended unless the infection is severe, home remedies aren’t working or the infection is causing serious discomfort. This is most common for those with a suppressed immune system such as people with HIV or going through chemotherapy.  

The ‘best’ treatment for fungal infections is oral medication called terbinafine. This medication is only available via prescription and may need to be take consistently for several months.

Other antifungal medication doctors could prescribe are:

Prevention methods

  • Have your nails done by a trustworthy salon with good hygiene
  • Dry your nails thoroughly after being in water
  • Keep your hands dry as much as possible
  • Avoid sharp objects going into the skin
  • If this happens regularly try an antifungal spray or powder

Other complications caused by acrylic nails

  • Bacterial infection
  • Allergic reaction
  • Weakened nails
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