Why Do Acrylic Nails Hurt?

You will often hear the phrase 'no pain, no gain' or 'there's no beauty without pain' while these statements are extreme, there's a small amount of truth regarding getting acrylic false nails applied. Acrylic nails are a popular beauty trend for their long-lasting durability, but unfortunately, these benefits come with a few drawbacks - namely, the pain!

So why do acrylic nails hurt? In short, the application process involves filing down your natural nail bed and then adhering artificial tips, which can be quite an uncomfortable experience. Several factors contribute to how much pain you may feel when getting your acrylics done.

The Nail Filing Process

First things first - one of the reasons why acrylic nails hurt is the filing process. When applying them, your technician must file down your natural nail bed to ensure that the artificial tips adhere properly and look natural.

While using an electronic nail file is much less painful than a traditional metal one, the filing process can still cause discomfort.

The False Nail Glue

Another reason why acrylic nails hurt is that glue needs to be applied for the artificial tips to stick - and unfortunately, this glue can cause stinging or burning sensations when it comes into contact with your skin.

Many technicians use special glues designed to minimise discomfort, but you may still experience some pain while applying it.

Cutting and Buffing Acrylic Nails

Finally, yet another factor which can cause pain when getting acrylics done is the cutting and buffing process. Your technician must carefully trim each artificial tip to ensure a natural-looking finish, and then buff it to ensure that the nail is smooth and even.

While this process isn't excruciating, you may experience a slight tugging sensation while your technician is working.

Fortunately, you can use some life hacks to minimise discomfort when getting acrylic nails applied.

  1. Use a recommended salon or nail technician. It's worth checking the reviews before you have your nails done to ensure the salon and technician have a good reputation. That way, you can be sure that they'll use top-quality products and take extra care not to cause you any pain or discomfort.
  2. If you know you're extra sensitive to pain or discomfort, try taking some ibuprofen before your appointment - this can help to reduce inflammation and numb the pain.
  3. If you're planning on getting a complete set of acrylics, try opting for a “short tip” manicure instead. This type of manicure requires much less filing, which can be much more comfortable for those with sensitive nails.
  4. Be sure to talk to your technician before they start - let them know how sensitive your nails are so they can adjust their technique accordingly. They may opt for a less aggressive filing method or use an adhesive with lower levels of acrylates, which won't cause as much stinging or burning.
  5. Try to remain as relaxed as possible while they're applying your tips - take deep breaths and focus on something calming, like your favourite song playing in the background.
  6. Let your technician know if you're feeling any pain - they can adjust their technique accordingly and work more slowly or use less pressure.

If you experience pain or discomfort for an extended period after the initial application, it's best to contact your technician as soon as possible. They may recommend using an ointment or cream to soothe inflammation or suggest taking over-the-counter pain relief medication such as ibuprofen. If these measures don't help, it's best to seek medical advice from a doctor.


What qualifications should a professional nail technician have in the UK?

Professional nail technicians should be able to produce evidence that they have taken a course in the safe use and application of acrylic nails or other artificial nails. This course should include how to correctly file, shape and apply fake nails safely, sanitise the work area, and accurately prepare a client's nails for acrylic application.

They should also hold a valid certification in infection control from an accredited body, such as the British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology (BABTAC) or the Confederation of International Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology (CIBTAC0), to name a few.

A certificate from either body will show that they know how to safely use materials and equipment that come into contact with clients, how to sterilise tools before use safely, how to prevent cross-contamination between clients and how to use hygiene products safely.

It's also essential for them to have up-to-date knowledge of new products or techniques that come onto the market and how to look after and maintain acrylic nails.

How can I tell if my acrylics have been poorly applied?

Poorly applied acrylics can be painful, especially if they're too thick or the technician hasn't used the glue properly. It's also essential to ensure that your nails aren't too long - overly long nails can cause pain when walking or doing everyday activities.

If you notice any unusual lumps, bumps, or discolouration on your nails, then it's best to contact your technician as soon as possible so that they can fix the problem. They may need to file down the artificial tips or replace them altogether.

Getting acrylics done can be a bit uncomfortable and even painful at times, but there are several steps you can take to minimise any discomfort. It's always worth researching your salon and technician, taking some ibuprofen before your appointment, and talking to your technician throughout the process. If you experience pain or discomfort for an extended amount of time after the initial application, then it's best to seek medical advice from a doctor.

Does the same advice stand if I apply my acrylic nails at home?

Sometimes doing things yourself can be a way to save money and time, but this is only sometimes the case when it comes to applying your acrylic nails. It's always best to leave nail care in the hands of a professional, particularly if you're not used to dealing with strong adhesives or cutting into plastic tips.

If you decide to apply your acrylics at home, ensure that you follow all safety procedures - wear gloves, ensure that your work area is adequately sanitised and use an adhesive with lower levels of acrylates to minimise stinging and burning during application.

It's also essential to take regular breaks so that you don't overwork yourself - this is especially true if you are doing a complete set of nails, as the process can take a long time. If you experience pain or discomfort, stop what you're doing, take a break, and return to the application later.

Never be afraid to ask for help if you're unsure how to do something - plenty of helpful tutorials and videos online will guide you through the process step-by-step. Here’s a link to our YouTube Channel for lots of tip and nail care advice.

Why you should take a break between acrylic nail applications?

Giving your nails a break from acrylic nail appointments is important and can help to keep them healthy. Your natural nails need time to breathe to stay strong and prevent damage or infections.

Your technician will be able to advise how often you should get your nails done, taking into consideration how fast your nails grow and how much the artificial tips need to be filled. Taking breaks between appointments helps give your natural nails some time to recover, reducing the risk of long-term damage or infection.

When having a break from acrylics, it's still a good idea to take good care of your natural nails - use an oil-based cuticle moisturiser regularly and avoid picking at or peeling off the artificial tips.

If you need a change then consider the extensive range of false nails from KISS, including tools and treatments to keep your manicure looking hot.

Elegant Touch also does a complete range of nails including our favourite nail kits.

Here’s a list of the best kits from Elegant Touch.


In conclusion, getting acrylic nails applied can be uncomfortable - however, there are things that you can do to minimise any pain. Talk to your technician before they start, remain as relaxed as possible during the application process and let the technician know if you're feeling discomfort.

If you experience pain or discomfort for an extended period after the initial application, it's best to contact your technician or seek medical advice from a doctor. With these tips in mind, applying acrylic nails should be relatively pain-free.

We hope this has helped answer all of your questions about why acrylic nails hurt - now that you understand how to minimise any pain and how to deal with it if it persists, why not go ahead and give them a try? Happy nail pampering!