Artificial nails

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Artificial nails
Artificial nails and glue

Artificial nails, also known as fake nails, false nails, fashion nails, nail enhancements, nail wraps, or nail extensions, are coverings placed over fingernails as fashion accessories. Some artificial nails attempt to mimic the appearance of real fingernails as closely as possible, while other designs may deliberately stray in appearance from real fingernails. Artificial nails are made from a wide variety of materials. Unlike most manicures, artificial nails require constant upkeep, and is recommended that you get a "fill" every 2 weeks.


The artificial nails are not a replacement, but an extension for natural nails. There are two main approaches to creating artificial nails—tips and forms. Tips are made of lightweight plastic plates that are "nail"-shaped. They are glued on the end of the natural nail. Then you have the choice to choose acrylic or hard gel to cover the nail. When you have chosen acrylic, gel or a combination of both is then applied over the entire nail. Tips are available in many different colors and designs. Some of the options ranging from simple colors such as yellow or blue to flamboyant designs such as animal prints and mixed metallic colors. When you get acrylic nails, forms are fitted over the nail and then an artificial nail is sculpted out of the acrylic, then properly shaped and buffed to a shine.

One popular material commonly called "Polymethyl methacrylate acrylics" is a mixture of a polymer powder and a liquid monomer (e.g. ethyl methacrylate). The mixture starts to harden in 20–30 seconds after application and continues to harden to final hardness typically within fifteen minutes. For the Gel nails another material, commonly called "UV Top Coat" (in correct chemical terms a polymer resin), cures under ultraviolet light. Depending on brand these can show a broader variety of quality and properties (flexibility, strength, etc.) but are more expensive.

Another popular alternative to acrylic or gel preparations are fiberglass or silk wraps. They are done by cutting pieces of actual fiberglass or silk fabric to fit on the surface of the nail or tip and then it is sealed down with a resin or glue. These are a possible alternative for those who are allergic to chemicals used in the acrylic or gel process. These sort of treatments are commonly used to protect the nails if they have been broken. The silk or fiberglass overlay acts as a false layer of nail and thus protects the nail plate from splitting or becoming damaged any furthermore. Other materials can be used, as well as combinations of them.

There are also temporary, cheaper flexible tips that can be quickly glued at home without help from a professional. Another cheap option are stick-on nails which can last anywhere from one day to two weeks. Many of these products can be found at drugstores. Acrylic nail powders are available in a variety of colors and can use "special effects" such as contours, sparkles and the very popular French manicure (pink or tan and white appearance)

Artificial nails can be shaped, cut, and formed in many different ways that include square, squared oval/squoval, rounded, almond, ballerina/coffin, or stiletto.

Removal of Nails[edit]

Artificial nails can be removed at home or professionally. Removing the nails at home will typically require materials such as acetone polish remover, nail clippers, and a small bowl.


"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 struck to the method of using a liquid monomer and powder polymer."[1]

During the Ming Dynasty of China, noblewomen wore very long artificial nails as a status symbol indicating that, unlike commoners, they did not have to do manual labor.

In the early 19th century in Greece, many upper-class women wore empty pistachio shells over their nails, slowly spreading the artificial nail trend across Europe.[citation needed]

"Women have been wearing nail extensions since the Egyptian times and back then they had a completely different meaning to what they do now. Wearing nail extensions from bone, ivory and gold, Egyptian women used them as a sign of wealth and status because things like bone, ivory and gold are luxuries only the wealthier women and men could afford. This concept was followed over centuries and women in the Far East even grew their nails as long as possible to symbolize status." [2]

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.[3][4]

Fred Slack used his dental equipment and chemicals to replace his natural nail, but over time the process has significantly changed. The start of getting your nails done is to, first, washing your hands. You have to be sure to wash your hands because even the smallest speck of dirt can mess the entire process. After you wash your hands, be sure not to touch your fingernail, because it could deposit oil onto the nail which will cause improper adhesion. Next is the trimming the filing and the buffing. If the natural nail is broken it needs to be filed to be straight so the acrylic nail can be applies properly. Now you determine the size and length you would like your nails to be (long, short, pointed, or oval). The hardest part of the process is this next step: the liquid and the powder. If the manicurist applies these wrong, the nail could end up looking thick, uneven, and very unnatural. Finally, pick your favorite color and you are done.

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. Even 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 you are.

Health effects[edit]

Perceived benefits[edit]

Acrylic nails help conceal or fix broken, damaged, short, or otherwise considered "undesirable" nail appearance. It also helps prevent people from biting their nails, breakage of nails, and protect splits. They are used when people are not able to grow the length and strength of natural nails that they desire. This problem can be solved by using certain nail techniques such as nail tipping, sculptured nails, nail wrapping, or acrylic overlays. Acrylic nails often make natural nails thin when removed though are rather durable during wear. Fake nails help prevent biting nails, broken nails, and help prevent splits.

Health risks[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. The most common problem associated with artificial nails is a bacterial 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 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. In fact, some hospitals won't allow their employees to have fake fingernails due to the risk of harboring infection which could be transmitted to patients. Several deaths of premature infants were blamed on an acrylic nail infection transmitted to the babies by a nurse in the late 1990s. Epidemiologists who have studied the outbreak of the bacterial infection at a children's hospital in Oklahoma City, found that half of the sixteen deaths from January 1, 1997 to March 12, 1998, were due to the contamination from the long fingernails. Infection can also be a risk when you have nails applied by a disreputable nail salon that doesn't follow sanitary practices.

There is concern over the flammability of ingredients used to make acrylic nails. It is suggested that they be kept at a distance from hair straighteners, dryers or curling irons, as well as from heat and flames when cooking, in order to avoid potential flame hazards.[5]

In 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.[6] Nail salon workers also face exposures to other chemicals used, such as toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde.[7][8][9]

Although the chemical methyl methacrylate has been outlawed since the early 1970s, some nail salons still use it. Some signs that a nail salon is still using MMA (methyl methacrylate) might be the fact that the prices are significantly lower than most other nail salons. Next, 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. Over time exposure to MMA could cause lasting effects such as drowsiness, light headedness, and trembling of the hands.


Most people confuse acrylics for long nails, however to achieve the look of having long nails or just having nails longer than your natural length you put on a tip; not acrylic. A tip is basically just an extension of an artificial nail that is glued onto your natural nail; once the glue is dried you can continue the rest of the process. There are now healthier alternatives for your nails instead of using acrylic. Dip just like acrylic and gel polish does hardens through chemical reactions. The dip method involves painting nails with a special primer coat, then a base coat, then the finger is dipped in a jar of colored powder up to four times. There is no smell involved, no harsh chemicals, no roughing up your nail bed and no UV light. The powder is also more durable than acrylics as well.

Musical usage[edit]

Musicians who play stringed instruments may wear artificial nails as an aid in playing. Some guitarists like Don Ross, Doyle Dykes and James Taylor are known for doing so. Many intermediate and advanced classical and finger-style guitarists use varieties of fake nails to obtain a consistent, clear and bright tone with each pluck. The players of many ancient Chinese instruments, like the guqin, pipa, and ruan, also commonly used artificial nails. Even the Indian instrument sarod requires nails for tipping, so many players resort to artificial nails to prevent wear and chipping of natural nails.


  1. ^ Newman, Marian (2017-04-03). The Complete Nail Technician. Cengage Learning EMEA. ISBN 184480139X. 
  2. ^ Andyminalto (2008-09-24). "The History of Artificial Nails". VivaLaNails. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  3. ^ "Acrylic Nails History". Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. 
  4. ^ "Fred Slack". Nail Systems International. 
  5. ^ "Product Information, Nail Care Products". U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 
  6. ^ "CDC – NIOSH Publications and Products – Controlling Chemical Hazards During the Application of Artificial Fingernails". NIOSH. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  7. ^ "Health Hazards in Nail Salons – Chemical Hazards". OSHA. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  8. ^ "At Some Nail Salons, Feeling Pretty and Green". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  9. ^ "CDC – Nail Technicians' Health and Workplace Exposure Control – NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic". NIOSH. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 

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.


  • Anthony, Elizabeth. "ABC's of Acrylics," NailPro Magazine, October 1994.
  • Hamacker, Amy. "Dental Adhesives for Nails," NailPro Magazine, June 1994.

External links[edit]