White spots indicate a calcium deficiency. Ice water dries polish faster. Chipping off nail polish reduces growth. Yup, we've all likely heard these so-called facts and more when it comes to our nails. There are just so many common nail myths floating around the beauty sphere that it's hard to know what's legit.
Considering they're such a small part of our bodies, it’s hard to believe there are so many rumors concerning our nails out there. Whether you’re a salon regular or you couldn't care less about your claws, the chances that some fallacy regarding nail maintenance or health has been drilled into your head (and that you believed it) are high.
Is it OK to keep chipping away at your cuticles? Are nail enhancements truly that bad? Separating the facts from the fiction is a real challenge when there’s a sea of mixed information thrown our way. So in the name of the truth, I chatted with Lauren B., nail expert of luxury polish brand Lauren B. Beauty, to debunk a few misconceptions about our nails. The next time you’re getting a fresh mani or freaking out over a small blemish, keep these 11 widely-believed but totally false nail myths in mind.
1. Cutting Your Cuticles Is Harmless
Most of us don’t think twice before pushing back our cuticles or allowing a technician to cut them. Although we may not like their appearance, keeping our cuticles in tact is actually crucial to keeping our nails healthy.
“Cuticles are part of your skin and are there to keep bacteria out and prevent infections,” Lauren tells me over email. “When you trim them away, you open up your skin and risk infection or nail problems.” Instead of getting rid of your cuticles, Lauren advises moisturizing as much as possible in order to keep them soft. You wouldn’t want to take away your nail’s natural barrier against bacteria, fungal infections, and yeast.
2. Green Spots On Your Nails Are Fungi Or Mold
When it comes to assuming you’re going to need your finger amputated over a horrid green spot making itself at home on your nail, well, I’ve been there and done that. Contrary to popular belief, these green spots are not usually mold. Instead, Lauren says the spots might be “pseudomonas,” a household bacteria that can form under your nail enhancement.
When bacteria become trapped between the nail plate and your artificial enhancements, this oxygen-free environment can cause pseudomonas to thrive. This pesky blemish may not be pleasing to the eye, but you can rest assured knowing that it’s a bacterial, and not a fungal, infection. Keep in mind that nail technicians cannot treat green spots, and you should visit a doctor for curing the infection.
3. UV Gels Are Better Than Acrylics
No matter how much anyone tells you that UV gels are much better than acrylics, it’s just not true. “Both processes involve chemicals and complex processes to bond to the natural nail,” says Lauren. “Aside from breathing in the toxins, our skin and nails absorb what we put on them.”
According to Lauren, acrylics can cause more damage to the nail bed, leading to risks of infection, white spots, and rigid nails. But gels are no better. Setting them under UV lights opens skin up to risks that stem from this exposure, and soaking them in harsh chemicals can damage nail beds and cuticles.
4. White Spots Indicate Vitamin Deficiency
Perhaps one of the most common nail myths I've heard is that white spots on nails are signs of a calcium deficiency. More often than not, white marks are actually the result of nail trauma. “I see a lot of women that have white spots caused by a bad gel or acrylic manicure, or removal process of this, and their nails have been destroyed. Picking, biting, using nail tools improperly, or any other injury to the nail causes these white spots,” adds Lauren. To avoid such marks, take extra care with your nails, especially after a rough manicure.
5. Nails Need To "Breathe"
As a salon regular, I’ve heard this phrase repeated oh so many times. While a break between enhancements is never a bad idea, your nails don’t actually need to "breathe" oxygen. “Nails get nutrients from our bloodstream and not the actual air,” Lauren tells me. Still, you can stand to give them time to grow and rehydrate if you’re looking to repair damage caused by artificial claws.
6. Cold Water Dries Polish Faster
If I had a nickel for every time I ruined a fresh mani within the first five minutes, I’d be a millionaire. Rumor has it that plunging your nails into ice water will dry your polish faster. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. Getting polish to dry requires evaporation of solvents, which can’t happen when your nails are submerged in water. As Lauren confirms, the ice water may only harden the top layer of your polish, which will leave the underlying layers wet and prone to dents. Besides, if the ice water trick truly worked, wouldn’t they do it in salons?
7. Eating Gelatin Strengthens Nails
Nails are made of the protein keratin, which may explain the misconception that eating gelatin, another type of protein, will strengthen them. However, there is no scientific proof to back up this claim. The same goes for applying topical gelatin to nails. To improve weak nails, Lauren suggests taking a break from harsh chemicals and enhancements, and consuming some biotin instead.
8. Nail Enhancements Damage Natural Nails
Your artificial enhancements themselves are not necessarily the sole cause of nail damage. It is true that the chemicals involved with enhancements take their toll on nail and cuticle health. However, the technique used to apply and remove them is at the root of the problem.
“If you go to someone who does not know what they are doing, or rushes through your services, or uses dirty tools or improper technique, then you are really in trouble,” says Lauren. Rather than the cosmetic itself, improper and excessive filing, drilling, and soaking during application or removal process can harm our nails.
9. Adding Acetone To Clumpy Nail Polish Will Refresh It
You may have heard that adding remover to your old nail polish will revive it if it has become yucky and old. Well, guess again! According to makeup entrepreneur Michelle Phan, most removers contain acetone, which only ruins the formula of your polish. Nail polish thinner is the way to go to restore your lacquer back to its glory days. A thinner will evaporate the chemicals in your polish without breaking down the formula like acetone.
10. Storing Polish In The Fridge Makes It Last Longer
There's no need to crowd your refrigerator with your polish collection, because this trick won’t help you over time. The cooler temperature may prolong the shelf life of your polishes, but exposing them to extreme temperature changes may harm the formulation. Your polish eventually won’t apply smoothly when it’s going from the chill zone, to room temp, and back over again. Storing your polish tightly secured at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, is best, according to The Daily Varnish.
11. Technicians Should Soak Your Nails Before A Manicure
When it comes to getting your nails done professionally, Lauren advises against soaking before a manicure. Soaking will soften your nails, which you don’t want to do, so it’s best to go waterless. H2O can act as a breeding ground for bacteria, so skipping the pre-polish soak can also greatly reduce your risk for infection. As a bonus, this will help your polish last longer.
“Think of nails like a sponge,” Lauren tells me. "When you soak them, they get waterlogged, so nail enamel can’t fully adhere. As your nails dry out, they pull polish, causing tiny fissures in the varnish that cause color to chip.” I think we can all agree that making our polish more prone to chipping is never the objective.
There's nothing quite like having freshly-manicured nails, groomed and painted to perfection. With a few of these common misconceptions now debunked, you can hopefully get back to achieving the healthy, beautiful nails you desperately try so hard not to chip or break.