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Why Do My Nails Hurt After Getting Acrylics?

Acrylic nails are highly popular for several reasons: they’re durable, can be filed into many shapes and lengths, are ideal for countless nail designs and nail art, and help prevent nail biting. If you frequently get acrylic nails, you’re likely familiar with the soreness your real nails experience after having acrylics applied. While this soreness is usually normal, you may still ask, “Why do my nails hurt after getting them done?” Posh Salon and Boutique takes a look at the reasons why, and what you can do to alleviate nail soreness.

why do my nails hurt after getting acrylics

Is It Normal For Acrylic Nails to Hurt?

Soreness is normal when you get acrylics applied, while severe pain and discomfort is not normal. Freshly applied acrylic nails usually feel tender for a day or two only, and any pain that lasts longer than this is abnormal. The reason why your nails may feel tender once acrylics are applied is due to the nature of acrylic itself. Unlike gel nails, acrylic does not require UV light to dry. Instead, acrylic dries on its own. As it dries, the solution hardens, pulling on your nailbed. This is why people often describe their new acrylic nails as feeling “tight.” There are several other reasons why your nails may hurt after getting them done.

Filing and Shaping of Your Real Nails

Before any acrylic solution is applied to your fingernails, your nails must be prepped first. This involves filing and shaping the nails. If you’re not used to having your nails filed, you may feel some discomfort. Nail techs may also roughen the surface of your natural nails, so the acrylic can adhere better.

To minimize pain from filing, always select a professional salon. Experienced nail techs know how to safely and efficiently file nails while considering your nail type and nail health.

Pushed Back Cuticles

Nail prep also involves having your cuticles pushed back. For some individuals, this can be uncomfortable or even painful, especially if you’re new to having fake nails applied. To help soften the cuticles and surrounding flesh, a professional nail tech will apply cuticle oil before pushing back and trimming your cuticles.

When your cuticles are pushed back properly, there is usually no pain. However, when cuticles are pushed back too far and or trimmed too much, you may experience discomfort or even infection.

Applying Too Much Acrylic

Experienced nail techs understand that less acrylic is better. Why? Less acrylic results in natural-looking nails, and less weight and bulk. As acrylic dries it tightens and hardens, pulling at the natural nail. Too much acrylic can increase this tightening sensation on your fingernails, causing soreness.

Acrylic Nails Are Too Long

While long claws are certainly eye-catching, long fake nails are more likely to feel uncomfortable. Why? Long nails can feel heavy and make your nails feel “tired.” If you’re new to having fake nails, it’s best to start with short to medium nails first. Long nails are also more prone to getting caught on objects and breaking, which can be extremely painful and possibly damage your nail beds.

Thin Nails and/ or Unhealthy Nails

Fingernails are a great indicator of your health. Healthy nails are rosy colored and grow without any issues. Yellow and/ or thickening nails, or nails that fail to grow may indicate dietary issues and/ or disease within the body. Pale nails are often a sign of anemia or low blood iron. As a result, your nails may be more sensitive than normal. If you have unhealthy nails, you should avoid having fake nails until your nails are healthy and strong again.

If you have naturally thin nails, you may be susceptible to feeling pain or soreness. It’s also worth noting that pain tolerance varies from person to person, so it’s possible you may have thin nails and not experience too much soreness when getting fake nails.

Damaged or Injured Nails

While acrylic nails can be an effective deterrent to biting your nails, avoid having fake nails applied if your nails are damaged or injured. For example, fake nails should never be applied if your nail bed is exposed due to injury or being bitten. The same rule also goes if you’re completely missing a nail. Having fake nails applied to a missing and/ or damaged nail can result in severe pain and even infection. Wait until your nail is fully grown and healthy to have fake nails of any kind applied.


Nail tools and utensils should always be sterilized before and after use. Unclean tools can lead to nail infection, which can result in nail pain.

DIY or At Home Application

Fake nails of any kind are best applied by experienced nail techs. For one, fake nails, such as acrylics, involve mixing and using strong chemicals. Professional nail techs know how to safely mix acrylic solution. Application is also key. Experienced nail techs know to avoid applying too much acrylic to your fingernails.

Attempting to apply acrylic nails at home can result in pain and/ or infection. Trying to mix and apply acrylic nails at home can lead to skin irritation and tender nails (not to mention sloppy-looking results.) If you’ve never had acrylic nails before, it’s worth vising a professional salon and having your nails done correctly and safely in one visit.

Skin Sensitivity or Allergies

Acrylic is composed of polymethyl methacrylate, a type of plastic that can cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Even if you’re not allergic, your skin or nails may be more sensitive to these chemicals, so you might experience sore nails and skin irritation as a result.

If you’re allergic to acrylic nails, don’t fret! Hard gel nails are hypoallergenic and are a great option for fake nails. Ready to try hard gel nails? Book an appointment at Posh Salon, you’ll love the results!

Certain Nail Shapes

One of the advantages of acrylic nails is that they can be shaped in many ways. Certain nail shapes, such as pointy nails, may make your nails feel more tender. Pointy nails are also more likely to hook on objects and are painful when you hit them. Experienced nail techs will shape your nails into shapes that best flatter your natural shape and thickness.

Too Much Force Is Used

An experienced nail tech will prep your nails and apply fake nails safely and efficiently: they’ll baby your nails. However, if the process is rushed and the nail tech is rough with your nails, you may experience pain or discomfort.

why do my nails hurt after getting them done

How To Alleviate Pain Caused By Acrylic Nails

Here’s what to do if your acrylic nails hurt:

Soak Your Fingers in Ice Cold Water

To reduce discomfort, submerge your fingers in ice cold for several minutes. Afterward, apply cuticle oil to keep your nails and skin moisturized.

Take Pain Reliever If Necessary

Take a mild pain reliever if you’re experiencing discomfort in your nails after your nail appointment.

Have Your Acrylic Nails Removed

If the pain persists and/ or you’re experiencing above-normal pain, have your fake nails removed. This is best done at the salon, as the nail tech will safely remove any nail tip extensions and fully remove acrylic polymer. This involves soaking your nails in acetone until the acryl dissolves. Then any remaining acrylic is carefully cut off with specialized nail tools, with leftovers then filed off. They will also carefully remove any remaining nail glue, and will follow up with cuticle oil to maintain your fingernails.

How To Safely Remove Acrylic Nails at Home

Only remove your nails at home if you are comfortable doing so. Here are the DIY ways to remove your nails at home:

Use Hot Water

You can use hot water to remove your acrylics nails. This is a chemical-free solution and is especially ideal if you’re allergic to acetone. Boil water or microwave water in a microwavable container, then let the water cool to lukewarm. Soak your fingers for several minutes or until you feel the acrylic begin to expand and soften. The longer you soak your nails the easier it’ll be to remove the acrylics. Once your nails have some movement, then gently begin to pick the nails to further loosen them. You can use a toothpick to gently pry the nails off. The key is patience: never use any force in removing fake nails. If the nails are still difficult to remove, reheat the water and continue soaking your nails.

Use Acetone

Acetone is the fastest and easiest way to remove fake nails. Use a cotton ball soaked in acetone and remove the acryl. You can also use the tinfoil method, which involved wrapping an acetone-soaked cotton ball with tin foil around each nail. These will stay in place until the acryl dissolves.

Acetone Free Nail Polish Remover

Not all nail polish removers contain acetone. Non-acetone nail polish removers usually contain the solvents isopropyl alcohol, ethyl acetate, and propylene carbonate. These three solvents are less harsh and less drying on your nails. With non-acetone remover, expect to put in more elbow grease to remove acrylics.

Cuticle Oil

Cuticle oil for removal works best when your artificial nails are beginning to feel loose. Soak a q-tip or cotton ball with cuticle oil and apply it to your extensions; leave it in place for several minutes until each nail loosens. Added bonus: wrapping each nail in cuticle oil deeply nourishes your funerals and cuticles.

What To Do If Your Fingernail is Infected

Fingernail infections can occur due to improperly applied and/ or maintained acrylic nails. This is when bacteria or fungus becomes trapped between the fake nail and your real nail. Signs of infection can include:

· Discolored nails (usually green or yellow)

· Pain in and around the nails

· Redness and/ or swelling of the skin around your nails

· Itching

· Bad smell coming from the nail

· Brittle nail

If you notice or suspect an infection, have the fake nail removed ASAP. You should avoid new extensions until the infection clears up. Fortunately, most acrylic nail infections clear up on their own, or can be addressed with several home remedies:

· Vinegar: vinegar’s acidic properties kill bacteria. Soak the infected finger in a 2:1 ratio of hot water to vinegar, for several minutes.

· Tea tree oil: this astringent oil has been shown to be effective in killing nail fungus. Apply to the infected nail twice a day until the infection clears up.

· Oregano Oil: Like tea tree oil, this oil contains anti-fungal properties. Apply twice a day to your nail with a cotton ball.

do acrylic nails hurt

Aftercare and Maintenance is Key

Maintaining your acrylic nails is crucial to preventing future pain and infections, as well as extending the wear time of your nails. Here’s how to practice proper aftercare for your nails:

Cuticle Oil is Your Friend

As mentioned several times, cuticle oil is extremely beneficial for your nails. Apply this oil often to keep your nails and cuticles soft and moisturized. Cuticle oil is extremely helpful if you live in dry, arid conditions.

Get Regular Fills

To prolong the life of your extensions, get regular acrylic fills every 2-3 weeks at the nail salon, depending on how fast your nails grow. A fill is a new acrylic added to the gaps in existing extensions. Also known as a fill-in, the fill is added near your cuticles. Fills allow you the option to choose new colors or designs. For example, you can switch from natural-looking nails to bright, flashy nails with designs or rhinestones. Your nail tech will remove the old color and apply the new color of your choice.

Baby Your Nails

Being too forceful with your nails can result in discomfort, or even severe pain if the nail bed becomes damaged. Never hang anything from your nails, and avoid banging your nails on surfaces and objects.

Maintain Your Real Nails After Having Your Fake Nails Removal

Acrylics are not damaging to nails if they are applied and maintained correctly. In between fake nails, take care of your natural nails with cuticle oil and regular manicures. It’s a myth that nails need to “breathe,” as your nails receive oxygen and nutrients carried within blood vessels. Monitor your nails’ health and take regular care of them. As long as your nails are healthy, you can get fake nails. If your nails show signs of discoloration, peels, ridges, bumps, and keratin granulation (extreme dehydration), then you should give your nails a break from polish and acrylics.

The Bottom Line

Having tender nails immediately after your appointment is totally normal. The pain usually lasts about 24 hours and then goes away. For the best experience and results, always visit a professional nail salon to have acrylic nails expertly applied and removed. Know that if you’re new to getting fake nails, it can take some time for the body to adjust to having them. If the pain is severe and/ or last longer than expected, have the nails removed and contact your doctor if needed.

To conclude, nail tenderness is usually very short lived. Don’t let fear of pain dissuade you from getting fake nails. Expert nail techs know how to minimize nail discomfort, and with proper care and maintenance, your acrylic nails can last up to 6-8 weeks (with regular fills.) Schedule an appointment with Posh Salon for your next set of eye-catching nails!

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