MyPsoriasisTeam members interested in getting gel or acrylic nails often wonder if manicures or pedicures are safe for people with psoriasis. Whether you have psoriasis that affects the skin, nails, or both, it’s important to understand how gel, acrylic, and false nails may affect you.
Here, we will take a look at the safety and potential risks of different types of nail services for those living with psoriasis. Ultimately, it is your decision to wear acrylic, gel, or false nails, but knowing the potential effects beforehand can help you make the best decision possible. It’s also best to talk to your doctor or dermatologist for more information on how nail treatments may affect your psoriasis.
Gel nails are created in a three step-process that layers a base coat, nail polish, and top coat on your natural nails. Unlike with traditional polish, nails are placed under a UV light between each coat. Acrylic nails are created by applying a liquid acrylic mixture to your nails, filing it to a natural shape, and finishing with a base coat, polish, and top coat. Gel polish can also be applied on top of acrylic nails if desired.
The biggest concern when it comes to getting gel nails — or any other type of nails — after being diagnosed with skin psoriasis is how the process could affect you. The process exposes your hands to chemicals and to skin or cuticle damage, both of which can trigger psoriasis.
Some people find that they are more likely to develop psoriasis in areas where their skin has experienced damage, an effect known as the Koebner phenomenon. While most people may not think of a manicure as damaging, nail buffing and cuticle trimming can irritate or injure the skin — and increase the risk of infection. Similarly, getting gel nails exposes your skin to many chemicals that could be a trigger for psoriasis. You may want to avoid gel manicures if skin damage or harsh chemicals have been known to trigger your symptoms in the past.
However, one member shared that gel nails help them feel more confident while dealing with psoriasis: “I have mine done with gel every three weeks. My skin causes me so much angst … at least having pretty nails makes me feel better. I have my toes done for the summer, and if anything, it seems to strengthen my toenails, as they can come off easily if knocked (and they look nicer with gel).”
Psoriasis affects more than just the skin. It can also develop on the fingernails and toenails, leading to symptoms that can resemble a nail fungus, other nail infection, or an abnormally growing nail. Between 50 percent and 79 percent of people with skin psoriasis and 80 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis have psoriasis symptoms that affect their nails.
Nail psoriasis can cause many nail changes, such as nail pitting, nail splitting, brittle nails, and the separation of the nail plate from the nailbed (onycholysis). Psoriatic nails may also develop subungual hyperkeratosis (a chalky substance that builds up under the nail), become discolored, or change in other ways. For these reasons, nail psoriasis is often misdiagnosed as nail fungus.
Some people with nail psoriasis want to cover discoloration, pitting, or other symptoms with treatments like gel manicures. There is some disagreement as to whether this is an acceptable method of dealing with nail psoriasis. Some sources, like the American Academy of Dermatology, say that gentle buffing and nail polish are fine. One study added that basic gel nails are a good option for hiding cosmetic nail changes, as long as the person isn’t sensitive to the chemicals involved in the application process.
However, other medical practitioners say that gel nails don’t help the situation. Gel nails may add to the strain your affected nails are under, causing damage or even worsening existing psoriasis.
You should approach manicures and gel nails cautiously if you have psoriasis. Ask your dermatologist for medical advice, including asking about prescription nail polishes that can help minimize the appearance of nail pitting or other signs of psoriasis. Let your manicurist know about your psoriasis and your triggers, or look for nail technicians who specialize in providing manicures for people with skin sensitivities or medical conditions.
Acrylic and other artificial nails are not recommended for people diagnosed with psoriasis. Those with psoriasis may be sensitive to the material of the nail itself, to the glue used to adhere it, or to the chemicals in the polish used on it. Any of these could trigger a psoriasis flare or worsen existing symptoms.
Acrylic nails can be particularly damaging. Because of how they’re applied, acrylic nails can make it more likely that your natural nail will separate from the nailbed. This damage increases the risk of developing an infection under the nail.
One member had this advice about acrylic nails and psoriasis: “I’m a level 3 qualified nail technician. It’s not advisable to have acrylics due to the harsh chemicals causing a reaction. But if you are wanting your nails done, I can recommend that you go for a light buffing of the nails to help with pitting. Don’t use or allow the use of a file with less than 240 grit. Try polish for a coat or to help with strength. I would suggest a gel polish application with an acid-free primer and regular monitoring for any lifting.”
Long nails in general — and especially those enhanced by false nails — are not a good idea for people diagnosed with nail psoriasis. If you do choose to get acrylics, you may want to opt for shorter options that don’t extend past the length of your natural nails.
In general, people diagnosed with skin psoriasis and nail psoriasis can still get basic manicures with nail polish and light buffing. Make sure to ask your manicurist to be gentle, and explain what can happen to your skin and your nails if the manicurist is too rough or uses abrasive chemicals. Ask them to not do anything that might lead them to pull your nail away from your finger, and to err on the side of caution with anything that might damage your skin. For example, ask that instead of trimming your cuticles, they gently push them back with a bamboo stick wrapped in a cotton swab.
Some types of nail polish and remover are designed for people with sensitive skin. If you purchase these products and want to have your nails done professionally, bring them along to your appointment. Your nail technician will likely understand and be happy to use them, but it may be a good idea to check in advance when scheduling your nail appointment.
If you don’t like the way your nails look because of nail psoriasis, make sure you work with a nail technician you can trust. Most will be wary of working on nails affected by fungal infections (like onychomycosis), as this can create an unsanitary environment. Take care to explain to them that your nails are the way they are because of a medical condition and that you are not contagious or dealing with an infection.
If you’re dealing with psoriasis, whether on your skin or your nails, you can get support today at MyPsoriasisTeam, the social network designed specifically for people who have been diagnosed with psoriasis. Here, you can ask questions, join ongoing conversations, and share your own story and updates with more than 100,000 members — more than 2,600 of whom report experiencing nail-related symptoms.
How do you approach manicures and nail care with psoriasis? Share your experience and tips in the comments below or by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.