The gross secret of long fingernails

Gel nail polish: what looks pretty in the end also harbors dangers.
Gel nail polish: what looks pretty in the end also harbors dangers. (Source: Nikita Kobrin/imago-images-pictures)

Long, colorful fingernails are a fresh reminder of spring, but they’re also a breeding ground for germs and a potential danger for nail modeling.

The most important points at a glance:

  1. Danger number one: germs
  2. Danger number two: UV light
  3. Danger number three: allergies

Now that spring is coming, it’s time to put away the gloves and show off our beautiful fingernails. However, doctors warn that long artificial nails painted in all sorts of colors pose health risks, including bacteria, cancer, and allergies.

Danger number one: germs

A microcosm of germs can be found under our nails, and the underside of particularly long nails provides a habitat for fungi and bacteria. Maintaining good hygiene by washing hands and nails with soap and a brush is crucial, especially since we handle food every day, rub our eyes, and have physical contact with others.

Dermatologists recommend short nails and avoiding artificial nails and nail art altogether for hygiene reasons. According to dermatologist Dr. Jan-Olaf Piontek, “As an artificial material, artificial nails are generally difficult to clean. Therefore, for reasons of hygiene, there is also a ban on artificial nails for medical professionals.”

In addition to the hygiene risk, the leverage effect of long nails can be devastating. If a woman with long nails grabs something, the nail can detach from the root and cause permanent damage to the nail organ.

Danger number two: UV light

UV lamps are used in nail studios and by many manicure fans at home to dry the nails, which are often coated several times with shellac or gel varnish. These lamps shorten the drying time and harden the paints, making the manicure last up to a month. However, researchers from the University of San Diego (USA) have described the high-frequency, ultraviolet light emitted by these lamps as extremely hazardous to health. In the worst case, UV devices can cause death of skin cells and carcinogenic mutations in genetic material.

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UV lamp: The light allows gel polishes to harden quickly. (Source: Antonio Gravante via

“Theoretically, all UV exposure to our skin leads to DNA damage. The good thing is that most of this damage is renewed by our DNA repair mechanisms. But not every cell DNA can be repaired. These damaged cells can then be used in the worst-case scenario, a tumor will develop,” warns Piontek.

The German Cancer Research Center basically classifies UV-A light as carcinogenic, depending on the duration and strength of the radiation.

Danger number three: allergies

The products used in nail modeling, including acrylates, can cause allergic reactions. Acrylates are different compounds of acrylic acid, which can be used to produce materials that are initially malleable and then stable once they have hardened. Gel nails, nail foils, or stick-on nails can also contain acrylates.

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Varnishes, artificial nails and stickers are now available in countless designs. Certain ingredients in the nail decoration can trigger allergies. (Source: IMAGO/ Daxenbichler)

“Allergic reactions are more common in connection with nail cosmetics. From acrylic nails to gel nails to nail foils and stick-on nails – acrylates are involved almost everywhere. The substances are applied in a liquid state and usually hardened by UV light,” writes “Mein-Allergie-Portal”.

Dr. Piontek explains that our immune system can overreact to almost any substance, causing allergies. Acrylates, in particular, are notorious for causing allergies, which manifest themselves in itching, reddening, cornification, and similar symptoms.

So if you notice rashes on your hands, cracked fingertips, nail bed inflammation and changes in your fingernails after the manicure, this could be an indication of an allergy. It can also show up as rashes on the wrists, forearms, and around the face. Then either a visit to the doctor is advisable – or an honest look at your own habits.

To summarize, long artificial nails painted in a range of colors may look appealing, but they pose health risks, including the dangers of bacteria, UV light, and allergies. It’s best to avoid artificial nails and nail art and to maintain good hygiene.

Disclaimer: The information in no way replaces professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The content of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.
Sources used
– written interview with dermatologist Dr. Jan Olaf Piontek (Mechernich)
– German Cancer Research Center: ” Ultraviolet radiation and cancer risk
– Nature Communications: ” DNA damage and somatic mutations in mammalian cells after irradiation with a nail polish dryer
– Mein-Allergie-Portal: “Where the allergen hides “


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