Q&A

Can pregnant women wear artificial nails?

Q.

Can pregnant women wear artificial nails or are the chemicals used in extension products and nail polish harmful to the fetus, and do glues, polishes, and creams seep through the nails and skin and enter the bloodstream?

A.

The question of wearing artificial nails is a valid concern for women of child-bearing age. If a substance is harmful to humans, it is harmful to a fetus. Under normal circumstances, substances gain entrance to the human body through the lungs via inhalation, the stomach through eating and drinking, and the skin through absorption.

Absorption of chemicals through the nails constitutes a minimal potential risk to pregnant women. Fingernails and toenails make up only a small portion of the body’s total absorptive surface area. Accordingly, the amount of material that can be absorbed through the nails is too small to be significant.

The nails absorb very little, a fact which limits fetal danger. Unlike the skin, lungs, and digestive system, nails are not designed to absorb foreign substances and can only do so if the nail is exposed to a substance for a long enough period to enable the material to penetrate it. Most substances that are applied to the nails either contain volatile chemicals that evaporate within a few minutes or are wiped off before absorption can begin. For example, polish remover, nail polish, and acrylics dry in a few minutes; once they’re dry, they cannot be absorbed by the nail.

The nail bed cannot absorb much because it is covered by the nail plate. Also, blood vessels in the nail bed are not designed to absorb foreign substances, unlike blood vessels in the lungs and digestive system.

For these reasons, it is very unlikely that a pregnant woman’s use of nail care products or artificial nails is harmful to her unborn child. It is impossible to say that nothing could happen, but in general, wearing artificial nails poses very little risk to pregnant women.

Skin creams and lotions, on the other hand, may pose a problem for pregnant women because they are absorbed through the skin. Any cream applied to the body or hands during pregnancy can be harmful to a fetus if the cream contains substances toxic to the fetus. However, most moisturizing lotions that you would use in the salon do not contain toxins and can be safely applied during pregnancy. Advise pregnant clients to consult their doctor if they have any concerns about nail or skin care products they use.--Paul Kechijian, M.D.

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