Acrylic nails have long been used as a way to enhance natural nails. They are especially good at providing strength to nails that are prone to breaking, ripping, or splitting. They provide instant length, beauty, and durability.
With fingernails averaging a growth rate of 3.47 millimeters per month, who has the time (or the patience) to wait around for nails to grow out, not to mention having to maintain them in the meantime, when you can get acrylics with instant results. It’s easy to see why acrylics are so popular.
But the question is – how often should you take a break from acrylic nails?
It’s recommended that you take a break from acrylic nails every three to six months. In this article, we are going to talk about why taking a break is important, how long of a break you should be taking, and the signs to look for that your nails need a break.
How Often Should You Take A Break From Acrylic Nails
As we mentioned, you should take a break from acrylics every 3-6 months. Three to six months is a pretty big window.
How do you know whether you should be giving your nails a rest at the three-month mark? Maybe you can hold out for another three months, or have to take a break somewhere in between?
That will depend on the health of your nails.
Taking note of the health of your nails both before the application of the acrylic and in between applications is important.
We are going to go over the warning signs to look out for below that will give you a good indication of when it’s time to take a break from acrylics.
Many of us get acrylic refills every 2-3 weeks. Given that, a set of acrylic nails can last anywhere from 6-8 weeks. If you are getting back-to-back sets of acrylics, after removing your third set, this would be the perfect time to take a break before getting a new acrylics.
If after your second set, your nails are looking a little rough, give them a break.
Why You Need To Take A Break From Acrylics
Now despite that you might have heard that you need to let your nails “breathe”, that is not at all the case and has nothing to do with why you need to take a break from acrylics.
Nails do not take oxygen from the air but get all the oxygen they need from the bloodstream.
Nails don’t need to be free from polish or acrylics to stay healthy, but they do need proper care.
The whole process of getting acrylics is hard on your nails. The products, nail prep, and the complete application process, as well as the often harsh removal process, can wear down the nails. They become thinner, dryer, and more brittle.
The damage to your nail health is compounded exponentially if you are not getting the manicure professionally done, or if you or your nail salon is not using quality products.
Quality products, the right application method, the proper use of manicure tools, sanitation, and removal are all key to ensuring nail health.
Using substandard nail products, not prepping the nail properly for application, improper chemical removal (leaving on the acetone too long) or mechanical removal (too much vigorous scraping or filing) is extremely damaging to the natural nail.
Taking a break from acrylic nails will give you time. You can assess your nail health and ensure that they are given the time they need to fully recover from any damage before going for a new set of acrylic nails.
Worst case scenario, using inferior products combined with improper application and removal and not giving your nails a chance to rest and repair in between, can cause your natural nail to actually come off.
No one wants that.
Risks of Keeping Acrylics On Too Long
It’s not just a matter of getting acrylics too often without giving them a break. Keeping your acrylics on too long can be detrimental to your nail health.
The biggest issue with keeping acrylics on too long is the increased risk of infection. Gaps can develop between the acrylic and your natural nail as you bump, knock or catch them on things, especially if you’ve opted for the long acrylics.
The gaps that are created allow moisture to collect, creating the perfect breeding ground for fungus and bacteria. This can happen whether you’re washing your hair, doing the dishes, whatever — anything with water can cause issues if you’ve got gaps.
Bacteria and fungal infections are also common when lifted nails are re-glued without being properly cleaned.
If you’ve had acrylic nails done then you are familiar with the fumes that are part of the process.
The chemicals that create those fumes are pretty harsh.
Extended contact with those chemicals with your nails and skin can develop into an allergic reaction and produce redness, swelling, and itchiness around the nail. Severe reactions can cause the natural nail to separate from the nail bed.
Lastly, keeping acrylic nails on too long can strip your nails of their natural oils, making them brittle, which can lead to breaks, splitting, and cracking.
How long is too long to keep acrylic nails on?
A set of acrylic nails should last from six to eight weeks. You should be going in for removal at the eight-week point at the latest.
Even if you think you can still eke out a bit more wear, you are putting yourself at risk of everything we’ve mentioned above.
It’s also important that you don’t go beyond three weeks without going for a fill and nail treatment. This step helps to take the pressure from the expansion off your natural nails as they grow and your acrylics will be less likely to lift.
Signs You Need To Take a Break From Acrylics
If you notice your natural nails are showing discoloration, developing rough white patches, ridges, are chipping, splitting, or breaking, these are all sure signs that your nails are in need of a break.
Take a few weeks from acrylics and give them some time to heal.
How long of a break do I need to take from Acrylics?
If you’ve noticed any signs of damage mentioned above, you need to let your nails completely grow out and heal before getting your next acrylic manicure.
This may take as long as six months in some cases, depending on how much damage there is.
Don’t wait until your nails are so damaged that you need to take a break before they fall off!
Take the break before they become too damaged and your nails will require a lot less healing time between acrylics.
How To Take Care Of Nails Between Acrylic Applications
If your acrylics have taken a toll on your natural nails, don’t panic. Our nails are pretty resilient. We are going to share a few tips about taking care of your nails, while you are giving your acrylics a break.
1. Trim Them Back
You should trim your nails back to remove as much of the damaged area as you can to speed up the healing process.
2. Use a Nail Hardener
Apply a nail hardener every couple of days for a week, without taking off the previous coat. At the end of the week, take it off and start again. After a couple of weeks, you can reduce the use to once a week.
3. Use A Cuticle Oil
Using cuticle oil once a day will keep our nails and cuticles healthy and moisturized.
4. Use Olive Oil
Instead of using a store-bought nail hardener and cuticle oil, you can use olive oil. It’s extremely moisturizing and healing and is easily absorbed into the nail and skin, not only making it great for your cuticles but your nails as well.
Olive oil is rich in vitamin E and helps in the absorption of calcium, improves bone mineralization and the process of calcification to help nails grow faster, while strengthening brittle nails and increasing nail flexibility to avoid breakage.
5. Stay Away From Acetone
Acetone is a weak nail’s worst enemy. If you are removing your nail hardener or simply had to use regular polish, use an acetone-free nail polish remover.
6. Shape Your Nails Naturally
Shaping your nails in the way they grow naturally will help them grow more quickly without cracks or breakage.
7. File Your Nails In One Direction
When using a nail file, choose a fine grit nail file and file in one direction only, rather than back and forth. This will avoid damaging the edges of the nail which can cause splitting.
8. Don’t Dig Under Your Nails
The skin underneath the nail bed that attaches the nail bed to the nail is called the hyponychium. The shape of your acrylics will affect the way this skin grows and can sometimes leave you with overgrown hyponychium once you trim your nails back.
Fight off the urge to try and remove it.
If you dig under your nails, this loosens the hyponychium from your nail plate, which can lead to infection.
9. Have patience!
Give your nails a chance to heal before getting more acrylics.
If applied (and removed) professionally, acrylic nails should not cause long-term damage. That having been said, acrylic nails are harsh! Take a break from acrylics every 3 – 6 months for as long as it takes for your natural nail to heal and become strong again.
You can paint your nails with regular lacquer nail polish — that won’t damage your nails.