5 Ways Acrylics Can Damage Your Nails — and How to Prevent It From Happening

October 21, 2022
Ariel Wodarcyk
By: Ariel Wodarcyk | Makeup.com by L'Oréal
Do Acrylics Ruin Your Nails? We Asked a Pro
For the longest time, I dreamed of having acrylic nails. I thought long, pointy, neatly polished nails were the most glamorous things a person could have (although I refused to give up my nail biting habit). When I finally got them as a teenager, I was elated for about two weeks — until I started picking them off one by one and realized how weak and damaged my nails underneath looked. Of course, I blamed the acrylics — but as it turns out, my removal process is probably what caused the damage. There are ways to maintain the health of your natural nails and still have totally fierce acrylics, according to Julie Kandalec, a celebrity nail artist based in NYC. Keep reading to find out what she has to say about proper acrylic removal and prep.

Do Acrylics Actually Damage Nails?

Nope. “The actual product doesn’t do damage,” says Kandalec. “Like other nail enhancements, the damage comes from improper prep, application or most commonly, removal; aka the person doing them or removing them.”

hands with colorful nail art on nails

What Can Cause Nail Damage From Acrylics?

The Prep Process

Watch out for the over-filing of your natural nails. When you get acrylics, the nail tech wets a brush with a liquid known as monomer, then dips it into a powder, called polymer, which then gets applied to your nails. If the monomer contains an ingredient called methyl methacrylate, or MMA, over-filing is more likely. “MMA is not safe or designed to be used on the natural nail plate, so it relies on a very rough surface to be able to adhere,” says Kandalec. “Safe monomers or ethyl methacrylate (EMAs) only require minimal, light buffing to remove the shine before application.”


Over-filing can also cause “rings of fire,” or irritated red rings at the base of your nail. Sometimes this happens as a result of a nail tech being too heavy-handed with a file or using the file at an improper angle.

Another warning sign to look out for? Make sure your nail tech doesn’t get monomer on the skin around your nails. If this happens often, it can cause an allergic reaction, redness or itching, says Kandalec.

Acrylic Removal

“If your nails are removed with anything except a file or an acetone-based solvent, like dental floss, a credit card or another nail tip, run!” says Kandalec. “Your nails will suffer major damage that will take weeks or months to grow out. This will also cause subsequent nail enhancements to not adhere as well, starting a vicious cycle.”

How to Keep Your Nails Healthy With Acrylics

Kandalec recommends never waiting longer than four weeks to get your acrylics filled in, or “rebalanced,” as she likes to say. “Think of it this way: when your nails are freshly done, it's like two kids of equal weight on a teeter-totter,” says Kandalec. “As the nails grow out, the weight moves to one side and is no longer balanced in the center, as if a child and an adult got on the teeter-totter. After four weeks, the weight of the enhancement becomes too unbalanced, which can cause damage to your natural nails.”


If you’re getting your nails removed, she suggests finding a reputable salon that charges for removal. “If you are paying for their time, you will have a safer removal process than if it is advertised as very inexpensive or free,” she says. 

To care for and strengthen your nails after removing acrylics, our editors recommend using a clear, strengthening polish treatment like Essie Hard to Resist, which has nail bonding technology to repair brittleness. 


If you have to remove your nails at home, you can follow Kandalec’s easy three-step tutorial below. 

Photo: Julie Kandalec

Read more

Back to top