DIY press-on nails are quick and inexpensive but doctors warn user error can lead to infections

Denise Dador Image
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
What to know about infections from DIY press-on nails
DIY press-on nails are quick and inexpensive, but incorrect use can lead to infections like pseudomonas aeruginosa and paronychia.

LOS ANGELES -- Many people turn to press-on nails for a quick and inexpensive way to get a polished look. The popularity of these quick manicures soared during the pandemic when nail salons were closed. But doctors warn there are some potential health risks involved when using them.

Daniela Roa of Corona used to be a nail salon regular until the pandemic closed them down. She then turned to trying press-on nails at home.

"It's like an acrylic nail that's already premade. And you just press it on with glue," she said.

After a while, Roa said the do-it-yourself instant polish just kind of stuck.

"It just started saving me money. And it's a quick fix," Roa said.

During the lockdown, the popularity of press-ons took off.

"It's a multitude of people that might use this because they want their hands to look pretty," said Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Daisy Dodd with Kaiser Permanente Orange County.

But underneath all that pretty, Dodd said something quite ugly could be growing.

"Patients will tell you that they have a green nail," she said.

A common infection called pseudomonas aeruginosa can flourish in the wet environments between your natural nail and the fake one.

"Because you're taking showers and washing hands, the water can get in there and bacteria might grow," Dodd said.

The issue isn't with the press-on nails or the glue. Doctors say those are safe, unless you develop allergies to them. The issue is how you put on the press-on nails.

"If you don't cover your nail completely, you leave a pocket open, humidity and water can get in there, and you can develop an infection," she said.

If you notice your nails turning green, soak them in water and salt or warm water and vinegar.

"That seems to do the trick," Dodd said.

If the discoloration doesn't go away within a few days, call your doctor. Another infection to be concerned about is called paronychia. It occurs when the skin around the nail becomes damaged, allowing germs to enter. Lookout for redness and swelling.

"That's definitely an infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics," she said.

Dodd's advice is: Don't wear press-on nails for more than two weeks. Be gentle when removing them, so you don't rip or tear your nails.

Roa says try not to mix and match different kits and follow the directions carefully.

"If you're not 100% sure about nail press-ons or how to take care of them or how to apply them, it's best to just go to a nail tech where they know what they're doing," Roa said.