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Artificial nails: How to fake it safely

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Fashion for your fingertips is a growth industry, but how can you make protect your nail health when having nail treatments and using artificial nails?

Nail bars and salons are a common sight in towns and cities across the UK.

In fact, analysts say nail bars are one of the fastest-growing businesses on the high street.

A survey for the Local Data Company in 2012 showed they made up 16.5% of new outlets in the past three years. There were more than 1,100 in the UK at the start of 2012 and the number is set to grow.

Nail art

Long gone are the days of painting a quick lick of varnish on your own nails before a special occasion. Nails are a real art form boasting intricate and personalised designs and detailing.

The British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology (BABTAC) is a beauty industry membership organisation.

Its director of operations Julie Speed says: "This is a huge growth area for the UK as we follow the US culture for manicures. With the launch of great finishing products it means that the benefits of manicures and pedicures last longer and don't damage the natural nail."

She says popular choices at the moment are permanent varnish, nail wraps and designer transfers, which are reliable and quick to apply.

Faking it

Many people are opting for artificial nails instead of just decorating or painting their own. They can look natural or over-the-top.

Gels and acrylics are popular choices.

For most people, artificial nails look fantastic and are perfectly safe but it’s good to be aware of the potential pitfalls.

Acrylic nails

Acrylic nails are artificial nail tips that are glued in place over your own nails to give your nails more length and strength. Your nail technician will mix a liquid with a powder and brush the mixture onto your nails. They'll usually cover your entire nail, though sometimes they'll just add tips or a flexible form that they can sculpt to extend your nails.

The product hardens as it is exposed to the air. You may notice a strong odour during the application process, but it isn't harmful, provided the room has good ventilation.

Over time, acrylics grow out with your nails. Every two to three weeks, you should return to the salon to have your nails filled in. Your technician will gently file down the acrylic edge closest to your nail bed, and then fill in the empty area between your nail bed and the existing acrylic nail.

When you decide to have your acrylics removed, your nail technician will remove them quite easily, with no forcing or prying, after soaking your hands in nail polish remover for 15 minutes.

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