Artificial nails, also known as fake nails, false nails, acrylic nails, gel x nails, nail extensions or nail enhancements, are extensions placed over fingernails as fashion accessories. Many artificial nail designs attempt to mimic the appearance of real fingernails as closely as possible, while others may deliberately stray in favor of an artistic look.

Artificial nails with hand painted nail art
Press-on nail tips, and cyanoacrylate nail glue

Artificial nails require regular upkeep; it is recommended that they are attended to, on average, every two weeks, however they may last over one month.[1] Nonetheless, their versatility in terms of shape, size, design and comparatively high durability are some advantages they hold over other types of manicures.

Types edit

Artificial nails are an extension, not a replacement, of natural nails. There are two main approaches to creating artificial nails—tips and forms:

  • Tips are heavyweight "nail"-shaped plastic plates glued on the end of the natural nail, or glued on top of the entire nailbed if it is a full cover tip or "press-on", and can have gel, dip or acrylic added on top;
  • Forms are shaped sheets with a sticky edge that is effectively attached to the tip of the finger and wrapped around the entirety of the nail to form an extension, for more creative control over what shape the artificial nail will be

Atop these, either acrylic, hard gel, or any combination of both may be applied. Tips are available in many different designs, ranging from solid colors like gel or regular nail polish to graphic designs such as animal prints and metallic colors. In addition to polishes, other embellishments may be used, like rhinestones, glitter, stickers, fimo charms and striping tape to add more to the artificial nail's design. Artificial nails can be shaped, cut, and filed into a variety of shapes, including square, squared oval/"squoval", rounded, almond, ballerina/coffin, mountain peak, lipstick, and stiletto.

Acrylic nails edit

Acrylic nails are made out of acrylic glass (PMMA). When it is mixed with a liquid monomer (usually ethyl methacrylate mixed with some inhibitor) it forms a malleable bead. This mixture begins to cure immediately, continuing until completely solid in minutes.[2] Acrylic nails can last up to 21 days but can last longer with touch-ups.[3] To give acrylic nails color, gel polish, nail polish, and dip powders can be applied. Use of MMA (Methyl methacrylate liquid monomers) acrylics are strongly discouraged and banned in some states as it can cause damage to the natural nail, asthma; irritated eyes, skin, nose, and mouth; difficulty concentrating; loss of smell and kidney issues.[4] A suitable alternative is EMA (Ethyl Methacrylate Liquid Monomers) in salon use.

Gel nails edit

Gel nail extensions and gel nail polish. Below are various manicure tools including a UV lamp for curing gel nails.

Gel nails can be utilized in order to create artificial nail extensions, but can also be used like nail polish. They are hardened using ultraviolet light.[5] They last longer than regular nail polish and chip less often. They can have a high-gloss finish and last for two to three weeks.[6][5]

Gel nails are strong, although not as strong as acrylic or fiberglass nails, and tend to be more expensive.[5]

Acetone does not dissolve some types of gel nails, so they have to be removed at a salon by buffing and filing, usually with an electronic nail file.[5] Repeated buffing can lead to thinning of the nail plate.[7] Improper application of Gel-X, and similar artificial nail systems that imitate Gel-X, can lead to fungal infections and allergic reactions.

A new gel nail extension was created circa 2017 that is commonly referred to as Gel-X, or soft gel tips.[8] It is a soft gel nail tip that is precut in differing styles and lengths which covers the whole nail bed up to the end of the nail. Gel-X are plied by first applying a PH bonder (dehydrator) followed by an acid-free gel primer. Finally, it is glued on using a gel adhesive that is cured using a[8] UV light. The removal process of gel-X nails is dissolving in acetone for 20 minutes.[9]

Nail wraps edit

Nail wraps are formed by cutting pieces of fiberglass, linen, silk fabric, or another material to fit on the surface of the nail (or a tip attached prior), to be sealed onto the nail plate with a layer of resin or glue. They do not damage the nail and also provide strength to the nail but are not used to lengthen it.[10] It can also be used to fix broken nails.[10] The treatment is however more expensive.[10] Nail wraps last 5–7 days but can last longer if worn and used correctly. Add-ons can impact the duration of the nail wraps.[citation needed] To take nail wraps off correctly, soak the wrap in acetone just enough to deteriorate the adhesive.

Nail tips edit

Nail tips are made of a strong bendable material called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Nail tips are attached to the natural nail to extend its length and provides room for more nail designs.[11] They can come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors, but the most popular ones are usually clear or white. They only last for 7–10 days.[11]

Some nail tips can also be made out of soft gel, for stronger applications when tips are the sole extension, with no other product on top. Gel-X is an example of a soft gel nail tip system.

Dip powder edit

With the dip powder method, a clear liquid is brushed onto a nail and the nail is then placed into clear, shimmery or pigmented dip powder, similar to what is used in the application of acrylic nails. The process is repeated multiple times, depending on how long the extension is.[citation needed] Dip nails tend to last about a month, 2–3 weeks longer than gel and acrylic nails.[12] It can be worn on natural nails, nails with tips on, or can create artificial nails. Dip powder nails do not require any UV/LED light to be cured, instead they are cured using an activator.[citation needed] The quickest way to remove dip powder is to drill, clip off, or buff out layers of the powder so, when they are soaking in acetone, they slide right off.[13]

History edit

Historically, artificial nails were common symbols of status all across the world:

"The earliest experiments and resultant artificial nails used a monomer and polymer mix applied to the nail and extended over a supporting form. This structure hardened and, when the support was removed, was then shaped to look like a natural extension of the nail plate. These dental materials were chemicals that came under the 'family' name of acrylics: thus the acrylic artificial nail was created. All materials subsequently used also belong to the acrylic family, but the term 'acrylic nails' has stuck to the method of using a liquid monomer and powder polymer."[14]

In 1878, Mary E. Cobb opened the first manicure salon in Manhattan. This came after studying nail care in France and marrying podiatrist, J. Parker Pray.[15] During the 1920s, short well-manicured round nails were a symbol of wealth.[15] Revlon made their first appearance in 1932 with only one single product, long lasting formula nail enamel.[15] In 1954, Fred Slack, a dentist, broke his fingernail at work, and created an artificial nail as a realistic-looking temporary replacement. After experiments with different materials to perfect his invention, he and his brother, Tom, patented a successful version and started the company Patti Nails. Fred Slack used his dental equipment and chemicals to replace his natural nail, but over time the process has significantly changed.[16]

In the late 20th century, artificial nails for women became widely popular all over the world. In today's time there are even nail styling competitions. Judges of these nail competitions look for consistency from nail to nail. They also judge whether or not the nails complement the model's hands. If the nails are beautiful, but too long for the model's hands, the judge will count off points. The competitors will be judged on how neat their work space is and how organized they are.

For years, nails were worn mostly by women. Now, in present days, people of all genders have the opportunity to wear false nails.[17]

Health effects edit

Perceived benefits edit

Acrylic nails help conceal or fix broken, damaged, short, or otherwise considered "undesirable" nail appearance. They also help prevent nail biting, breakage, and splits. They are used when people are not able to grow the length and strength of natural nails that they desire or simply desire a new fashion look. This problem can be solved by using certain nail techniques such as nail tipping, sculptured nails, nail wrapping, or acrylic overlays. With improper removal, acrylic nails often damage natural nails. An experienced nail technician should assist with this to ensure nail health.

Health risks edit

Nail infection and damage to natural nail edit

If fitted properly, artificial nails are usually not problematic. However, long term use and poorly fitted nails can seriously damage the nail bed and hamper natural nail growth. Natural nails may become thin and weaken with frequent touch-ups. The most common problem associated with artificial nails is a fungal infection that may develop between the false and natural nail.

When artificial nails are applied to the natural nail surface, minor types of trauma to the artificial nails which can happen from something as harmless as scraping or bumping a nail against a firm surface can cause separation of the nail from its nail bed. This allows bacteria and fungus to potentially enter the separated area setting up an infection and bacterial burden. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities do not allow employees to have long fingernails, fake or real, due to the risk of said nails harboring microbes that could transmit diseases to patients.[18] Infection can also be a risk when nails are applied by a disreputable nail salon that does not follow sanitary practices.[19]

Hand hygiene risks edit

The use of nail polish and artificial nails make proper hand hygiene and hand washing more difficult, because they are more difficult to clean than natural nails. Therefore, in professions where hand hygiene is important, such as when handling food or providing patient care, nail polish and artificial nails are usually forbidden. For example, a guideline of the National Health Service (England) explicitly forbids both during patient care activity.[20] The Food and Agriculture Organization publishes similar advice for the food retail sector.[21]

Danger to nail salon workers edit

From an occupational health standpoint, there could be hazards to nail salon workers who are exposed to the chemical fumes from artificial nails during their entire work shift. Ethyl methacrylate can be used for artificial nails and can cause contact dermatitis, asthma, and allergies in the eyes and nose.[22] Nail salon workers also face exposure to other chemicals used, such as toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde.[23][24][25] The products used to make acrylic nails may also be flammable.[26]

Exposure to methyl methacrylate (the precursor to acrylic glass) can cause drowsiness, light-headedness, and trembling of the hands,[27] and so it has been banned for use in cosmetology in the majority of US states.[28] Use of methyl methacrylate can cause skin reactions and damages to the natural nails, sometimes even permanently. Some signs that a nail salon is still using MMA might be prices that are significantly lower than most other nail salons.[29] There will be an unusually strong and fruity odor. Also, the manicurist will often be wearing a mask to keep from breathing in the harmful chemical.[27] Removal is much more difficult, and drills are more excessively used. Ethyl methacrylate is the safer alternative for MMA, but it costs several times as much and can still produce many effects.

See also edit

  • Fingerpick, placed on fingers to play stringed instruments

Further reading edit

  • Chase, Deborah. The New Medically Based No-Nonsense Beauty Book. Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1989.
  • Schoon, Douglas D. Nail Structure and Product Chemistry. Milady Publishing, 1996.
  • Symington, Jan. Australian nail technology. Tertiary Press, 2006.
  • Anthony, Elizabeth. "ABC's of Acrylics," NailPro Magazine, October 1994.
  • Hamacker, Amy. "Dental Adhesives for Nails," NailPro Magazine, June 1994.

References edit

  1. ^ Tan, Sara. "Acrylics 101: 5 Tips to Make Your Fake Tips Last". Bustle. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Secret Ingredient: Acrylic Liquid". NAILS Magazine. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  3. ^ "How long do acrylic nails last and how you make them last longer?". Metro. 29 June 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  4. ^ "Health Hazards in Nail Salons - Chemical Hazards | Occupational Safety and Health Administration". Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d Janet Simms (2003). A Practical Guide to Beauty Therapy for NVQ Level 2. Nelson Thornes. p. 396. ISBN 978-0-7487-7150-9.
  6. ^ Whitbread, Louise (2019). "Gel Manicures Look Good, But What's The Damage To Your Nails?". HuffPost.
  7. ^ Kang, Sewon (2018). Fitzpatrick's Dermatology, Ninth Edition. McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 978-0-07-183783-5.
  8. ^ a b Robin, Marci. "Ariana Grande's Long Nails Look Like Acrylics, But They're Actually Gel Extensions". Allure. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  9. ^ Penrose, Nerisha (1 September 2020). "Gel Extensions Will Make You Ditch Acrylics Forever". ELLE. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  10. ^ a b c Simms (2003), p. 397.
  11. ^ a b Simms (2003), p. 398.
  12. ^ Prinzivalli, Leah. "Everything You Need to Know About Dip Powder Nails". Glamour. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  13. ^ Tan, Sara. "How to Remove Dip Nails at Home". Allure. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  14. ^ Newman, Marian (3 April 2017). The Complete Nail Technician. Cengage Learning EMEA. ISBN 978-1844801398.
  15. ^ a b c Sciacca, Noelle. "The Nail Files". Mashable. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  16. ^ Zorn, Marc (25 August 2014). "Who Invented Acrylic Nails". Vision Launch Media. Retrieved 10 May 2023.
  17. ^ "Acrylics Then and Now". OTC Beauty Magazine. 1 March 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
  18. ^ Hedderwick, Sara A. (2000). "Pathogenic Organisms Associated With Artificial Fingernails Worn by Healthcare Workers" (PDF). Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. 21 (8): 505–509. doi:10.1086/501794. JSTOR 10.1086/501794. PMID 10968715. S2CID 2153757. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  19. ^ "Preventing infections when visiting the nail salon or tattoo parlor". APIC. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  20. ^ "Uniforms and workwear: guidance for NHS employers" (PDF). NHS England. 2 April 2020. Good practice – evidence-based [...]Have clean, short,unvarnished fingernails.[...]Poor practice – evidence-based[...]Wear false nails during patient care activity.
  21. ^ "Guidance on hygiene and safety in the food retail sector" (PDF). Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved 27 April 2023. While working in areas where exposed food is handled, personnel should maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and should wear a clean uniform and head gear/cap and wash hands regularly. [...] Nails should be trimmed, kept clean and without nail polish.
  22. ^ "CDC – NIOSH Publications and Products – Controlling Chemical Hazards During the Application of Artificial Fingernails". NIOSH. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  23. ^ "Health Hazards in Nail Salons – Chemical Hazards". OSHA. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  24. ^ "At Some Nail Salons, Feeling Pretty and Green". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  25. ^ "CDC – Nail Technicians' Health and Workplace Exposure Control – NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic". NIOSH. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  26. ^ "Product Information, Nail Care Products". U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Archived from the original on 6 June 2009.
  27. ^ a b Symington, Jan (2006). "Salon management". Australian nail technology. Croydon, Victoria, Australia: Tertiary Press. p. 11. ISBN 0864585985.
  28. ^ "The Methacrylate Producers Association's Position on the Use of Methacrylic Acid and Unreacted Methacrylic Monomers Liquid Form in Artificial Nail Products" (PDF). Methacrylic Producers Association. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  29. ^ Moore, Booth (28 January 2000). "Pointing a Finger at Discount Nail Salons". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 December 2020.