Why You Should Take A Break From Manicures To Preserve Your Nail Health

Beyond nail art and manicure trends, we're prioritizing nail health. We want to take care of our nails and ensure that we're not absorbing toxins into our bodies. Polishes, fake nails, and even press-ons can all come with side effects. According to Harvard Health, chemicals found in polishes can get absorbed into the body, which is worrying. In other cases, certain colors, especially dark ones, can discolor the natural nail beds. Even when it comes to non-toxic polishes, more research is needed to decode how harmless those polishes really are. Fake nails and some press-on nails can damage the nail beds, leading to peeling, thin, brittle nails. On top of that, the UV lights required to cure certain gel polishes can harm the skin on our hands. Occasionally, we want to see our nails because our natural nails can give us a lot of information about our overall health; we need to examine our natural nails from time to time to glean the information that they can give, something that's harder to do when they're covered with polish or fake talons. 


In light of all of this, Women.com wanted to get answers about nail health. To do so, we spoke exclusively with Dr. Mariano Busso, Beverly Hills- and Miami-based Board Certified Dermatologist, to ask his take on this. Particularly, we discussed whether or not it's beneficial to take a break from manicures to preserve nail health. 

Give your nails a break for a few days every month

In an exclusive conversation with Dr. Mariano Busso, Women.com asked if it was wise to give nails a break from polish in between manicures. Dr. Busso explained that if your nails weren't showing any effects from long-term polish wear, then they were probably healthy. However, the dermatologist did share that it was still wise to give nails a break for a few days every month. "For some, leaving nail polish on for prolonged periods can leave their nails brittle, which can pose a health hazard because nails are Mother Nature's protective barriers against bacteria and fungus," Dr. Busso told Women.com. 


He explained that taking a break from polish, press-ons, and fake nails also meant a break from the chemicals necessary to take these adornments off. "Also remember, when you give your nails a break from nail polish you also are giving them a break from nail polish remover. Removers contain acetone, an ingredient known for dehydrating the nail, cuticles, and surrounding skin." It's not just our nail beds that get exposed to removers, it's also the skin around the nail. So give your digits a few days of rest, and focus on nourishing them with cuticle oils and hand moisturizers. 

Taking a break applies to all forms of nail polish and gel nails

Manicures and nail upkeep are no longer unanimous to nail polish. The world of nails has expanded to include gels, acrylics, press-ons, and of course, classic nail polish. So when we spoke to Dr. Mariano Busso, we wanted to know if any of these treatments were exempt from his suggestion of taking a break for a few days a month. For our expert dermatologist, taking a breather applies to every nail product. "[The break] applies across the board, but it's important to note that while gel polish typically lasts longer than other polishes, it can still cause your natural nails to become brittle and lead to cracking," Dr. Busso explained. Harvard Health stressed the same idea when discussing long-term nail health. Whether your preference is a little nail polish or something more elaborate, like gel extensions, taking a break is a good idea. 


Many nail products contain a form of formaldehyde called formaldehyde resin, which is known to be toxic. A lot of nail products also include toluene and dibutyl phthalate, or DBP, which are used to quicken drying processes and prevent chipping. Unfortunately, all three of these common ingredients are toxic. For those who love manicures, it's worth noting that the amounts are not large enough to cause notable damage, and some nail brands don't even use these products. Regardless, giving our nails and surrounding skin a break is a good idea. 

How to tell when it's safe to apply polish again

We're not giving up on nail polish and manicures forever, so Women.com asked Dr. Mariano Busso how to tell when nails were healthy enough to reapply polishes or to get a new set of gels or acrylic nails. "First, check the color," Dr. Busso explained. "Healthy nails should be pink while damaged nails will start showing white spots." But it's not just the color of the nails; their texture can also be telling. "Also, if the surface of your nails begins to thicken and develop ridges or become thin and brittle — both are signs of unhealthy nails," Dr. Busso went on. "The situation becomes much more serious if the nail starts separating from the surrounding skin or if [you] detect redness or bleeding around the area. If you experience any of these symptoms, give your nails a break until you see improvement. If things don't get better or even worsen, see your doctor right away." So look for both color and texture when it comes to nail health; your nails will tell you when they're ready.