Look Out for This When Acrylic Nails Come Off, Experts Warn

Look Out for This When Acrylic Nails Come Off, Experts Warn featured image
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Acrylic nails can hide a lot, which is part of why we love them so much. Have weak, bitten or short nails? Pop faux nails on, and you’ll feel like a new person. However, sometimes acrylic nails can be hiding something a bit more nefarious. If you’ve ever gotten your acrylics removed only to find you have a yellow or green nail, listen up.

Why is my nail green after acrylics?

A green nail post-acrylic could be due to poor-quality products, incorrect application, unsanitized tools or the reuse of disposable items,” says nail expert Alma Tobias. “The color green typically means that moisture is trapped in the area where there is no airflow, which creates bacteria.”


A green nail post-acrylics is a result of bacteria, more specifically pseudomonas, which produces a green pigment, says New York Dermatologist and nail specialist Dana Stern, MD. “I want to emphasize that this is not what it ‘could mean’ but rather that it is definitely pseudomonas when the nails take on a green discoloration.” Celebrity manicurist Julie Kandalec explains that this can happen “when dirt and moisture become trapped between the natural nail and the nail enhancement.”

This kind of bacteria “has a proclivity for nails. Fortunately, the nail infections typically remain localized and are highly treatable,” says Dr. Stern. “Rarely, however, they can become complicated, she warns. Dr. Stern points to a case report in Pediatric Dermatology where a self-applied acrylic nail became infected with pseudomonas bacteria. This then spread to the patient’s contact lens, leading to ulceration and partial blindness.

The solution

First off, the nail enhancement must be removed from the area as soon as possible to prevent the condition from worsening. Then cleanse the area with a solution and allow oxygen to hit it, says Kandalec. Founder of Glosslab, Rachel Apfel Glass, suggests “cutting the nails as best you can, buffing them, and putting some rubbing alcohol over them to kill any bacteria leftover.” Depending on how dark the stain is, it’s possible it could be buffed away, but it should be monitored for a few days before applying any other enhancements, says Kandalec.

If you want to try some home remedies, Tobias says tea tree oil and soaking nails in apple cider vinegar or white vinegar a couple of times a day has been noted to be helpful. She adds that she’s even heard of people using Vicks.

However, Dr. Stern says pseudomonas infections generally need to be treated by a dermatologist. “A dermatologist would typically recommend soaking the nail in vinegar (clear vinegar diluted 50 percent with water) daily until the nail no longer has the green appearance,” says Dr. Stern. She says a topical antibiotic may also be prescribed. “It’s important to note that any tools that have made contact with the infected nail are contaminated with the bacteria and can spread the infection to other nails potentially,” says Dr. Stern.

How to prevent getting a green nail

Once the nail is on the mend, Apfel Glass recommends using a product like GLOSSLAB Superboost ($10) to help harden and strengthen the nail bed to prevent it from happening again. Licensed nail artist Alaina Schwechler refers to the green nail affliction as “greenies.” To prevent this, she says it’s important to “make sure you are thoroughly dehydrating the nail plate prior to applying extensions, and always ensure that you seal your cuticle area to prevent any lifting or new moisture getting in” and maintain them on a regular basis.

Why is my nail yellow after acrylics?

A yellow nail after removing acrylics could mean something simple like “your natural nails weren’t getting enough oxygen and, as a result, became discolored,” says Apfel Glass. In this case, she recommends taking a break from applying acrylics to let the nails breathe, trimming them down and moisturizing with a product like GLOSSLAB Hand Cream ($18). However, there are a handful of slightly more sinister reasons your nail is yellow.


A yellow nail post-acrylics can be a result of onycholysis, which is when the nail plate separates from the nail bed, explains Dr. Stern. “Separation can occur due to the removal process required for acrylic removal, but longer nails, in general, are more prone to trauma and lifting off of the bed.”

Onycholysis can also be sparked by an allergy to the acrylate component in acrylics. “Any nail product enhancement whereby acrylics are bonded to the nail vis a vis a chemical reaction has the potential to cause allergy,” says Dr. Stern.

“The other potential reaction is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction. This occurs in someone who has had repeated exposure to the chemical,” says Dr. Stern. “Over time, the person’s immune system learns to recognize and react to that chemical, and so the littlest drop or exposure can set the reaction into a full inflammatory cascade,” she explains. “Certain people are more prone to these hypersensitivity reactions. For example, those with eczema tend to have a compromised skin barrier. So theoretically they would be more at risk for a potential allergic reaction to nail glue. And nail technicians are more at risk due to chronic, repetitive exposure.”

Poor removal process

“If the product is aggressively removed and you have acrylics applied often, you’ll likely see damage to the nail matrix (the anatomical part of the nail that produces the actual nail plate—you can see part of it as the lunula or half-moon),” says Dr. Stern. “Matrix damage will result in abnormalities including surface irregularities, white patches, yellow discoloration, bumps and grooves,” she notes. Additionally, aggressive cuticle removal can also lead to abnormal nail appearance and potential infections at the cuticle level.


“When your skin is dry and peeling, you reach for the nearest loofah Clarisonic brush to exfoliate the dead cells in order to allow for maximum absorption of your moisturizer. The same concept is true of the nail,” explains Dr. Stern. “If you looked at a nail under the microscope, you would see there are layers of damaged, dehydrated nail cells. This is especially true post acrylic. It’s also why nails peel, get discolored, split and why polish doesn’t go on smoothly and can chip, she explains. To remedy this, she recommends the Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System ($30). This system exfoliates using glycolic acid. It’s clinically proven to improve the appearance of nails.


While fungus is rare on fingernails, when it does appear, it usually manifests as white or yellow, says Kandalec. “If there is a lifting of the nail plate from the nail bed or even white pockets under the nail, this is almost a clear sign of an infection,” says Schwechler.


Schwechler encourages anyone who thinks they may have fungus to see a doctor for medical advice. Generally, “Fungal infections require medical treatment. There are some over-the-counter remedies, but I always recommend speaking to a doctor.”

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