Why Do My Nails Burn when I Get Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails are one of the most popular cosmetics today. They’ve been around for decades but have recently made a huge comeback thanks to celebrities and social media. They’re a great option for those who want more length and strength for their nails. They also offer a great canvas for those wanting to add some pizzazz with intricate nail designs.

While they offer a great option for artistic expression, there is the potential for your nails to burn after being applied. This can be caused by several different things, including excess primer, too much acrylic powder, improper nail preparation, curing, and physical bodily reactions to the process.

Luckily, the burning doesn’t typically last all that long and there are things that you can do to stop it. Open communication with your nail technician is key. If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort, you need to let them know immediately.

We are going to cover all the possible reasons that your acrylic nails might burn when you first get them. Additionally, we will explore all the methods of relieving the sensation and how to prep beforehand.

What causes your acrylic nails to burn when you first get them?

There are two main causes for burning nails following acrylic nail application. The first reason is if your technician uses too much primer used on the nails and it not being allowed to dry properly. The second is the application of too much acrylic powder on thin nails. Other causes include improper preparation of the nails, the curing process, or a spontaneous reaction of the body to the process.

Primers are a required chemical component of the acrylic nail application process. The technician will use them to prepare the nail surface before applying the acrylics. This will ensure a strong bond. Primers come in two types, non-acidic and acidic.

Non-acidic primers, as their name would indicate, are easier on your nails and skin. However, they still create a strong bond between your natural nails and the acrylics. These primers are intended for people who a sensitivity or are allergic to acid-based primers.

Acidic primers are frequently used in nail salons. They are made with methacrylic acid. Many nail technicians prefer to use acidic primers because of their high-caliber quality. They create a much more powerful bond between your nails and the acrylics than their non-acidic primer counterparts.

When the acrylic powder is mixed with the acrylic liquid, the produced chemical reaction emits heat in an exothermic reaction. If you notice this heat spike on your nails one of two things has happened.

If your nails are thin, you’re going to experience a burning sensation regardless of how little heat is generated. This is due to how easy the heat can pass through your thin nails to the nerve endings below.

When your technician uses too much acrylic powder, it will generate a large amount of heat. This spike in heat energy can quickly pass through even the thickest of natural nails.

Additionally, if too much pressure is applied when your nails are being filed and smoothed, you could experience a burning sensation. This is due to the removal of layers of your natural nails, causing irritation.

If the nail bed is injured during the nail preparation, you will also experience burning. When the technicians use a drill instead of a nail file, there is the potential that they could dent or cause injury to the nail bed, which is where the burning sensation comes from.

The curing process can also cause a burning sensation. If it’s not done properly, there is a high probability for it to burn. Because of this, it is advised that you slow down the curing process by either using a slow curing gel or by removing your hands from the UV light periodically.

If it’s your first time getting your nails done, your body may simply react negatively to the process. Your nails will not be used to going through the preparation process or the application of the primer. This irritation should ease up within a day.

How long does the burning typically last?

While it may be irritating and painful, this burning sensation should not last a full 24 hours. In fact, in most cases, it only lasts a few minutes. If it does continue past a full day, consider removing the acrylic nails to relieve the pain.

What can you do to relieve it?

If nail primer is what’s causing your burning acrylic nails, try these two things to stop the burning. First, make sure it’s completely dry before applying the acrylics. Liquid primer will continue the etching process and seep into your nail beds. By allowing it to dry, there will be no harsh liquid chemicals left on your nails to react with your acrylics. This will stop the burning before it starts.

Second, make sure your technician is using primer sparingly. Do not let them saturate the nail’s surface with it. If the primer floods the cuticle line, they have used too much.

You can visually inspect your nails to tell if the primer is completely dry. It will appear chalky and white. If your nails still look shiny and wet, you’ll need to wait to apply your acrylics. To help speed up the drying process, use a small fan to dry one hand while preparing the other hand.

To handle a heat spike that occurs immediately after the application of acrylics and is causing a severe burning sensation, spray alcohol or water onto the affected nails to quickly stop the burn. These liquids will help remove the heat, causing instantaneous relief.

You should also give some thought to wearing shorter acrylic nails. They will not require as much acrylic powder as longer nails. This is an especially good idea if you have thin nails.

Be sure to pay attention when your nail technician is applying the nail glue. You’ll want to make sure the glue doesn’t meet your skin. If you have a thin nail bed, substitute your normal nail glue for one with medium viscosity.

When your nail technician is preparing your nails, don’t let them use a drill. The drill can cause dents and damage to the nail bed, causing burning. A nail file, on the other hand, is safe and effective.  

If you’re feeling pain or discomfort while your technician is working, you need to let them know. This can prevent burning.

What can you do before getting nails to keep them from burning?

Before you get your nails done, you need to make sure they’re in a state that can handle acrylics. You’ll want to strengthen weak or brittle nails to ensure they can stand up to the chemicals.

Do your research. Make sure that acrylic nails are the ones you want. Other options do not run the risk of a burning sensation. Fully consider all your options before you settle on the nails you get.

Once you’ve decided that acrylic nails are what you want, make sure you inspect the tools at the salon. They need to be sterilized before they’re used on your hands. Unsterilized tools can lead to nasty infections that will cause severe burning that does not go away until the infection is cleared up.


Acrylic nails make a great statement. They can add a splash of color, or they can have a full design put on them. However, there is the chance that they will burn when applied. From too much primer or acrylic powder to too much pressure during the nail preparation, there are many causes of this burning.

While many things can cause the burning to occur, there are many solutions to the problem as well. Something as simple as applying water or alcohol to the affected nails can reduce the burning from the chemical reaction. Preventing your technician from making mistakes, like using too much glue, will stop the burn before it starts.

You’ll also want to make sure that you prep your nails before going to the salon. If your nails aren’t healthy, it’s best to wait to get your acrylics.  The process can affect the weak nails, causing burning.

You should also do some research to determine if acrylic nails are really what you want. You can weigh the benefits against the disadvantages to determine if this is the right choice for you.

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