A close-up shot revealing a woman's hand with flawlessly manicured acrylic nails, yet one of them noticeably lifting at the tip after only three days.

Why Do My Acrylic Nails Lift After 3 Days?

Having beautiful, long-lasting acrylic nails is every woman’s dream. But the nightmare begins when those pristine nails start lifting at the edges just days after getting them done at the salon. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Improper application and preparation of the natural nails is the main reason acrylics lift off so soon.

In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the various causes of acrylic nails lifting after just 3 days and what you can do to avoid it.

Preparation of Natural Nails

Properly preparing the natural nail plate is a crucial first step before acrylic application. Failing to correctly ready the natural nails can lead to lifting and other issues with the acrylics down the road. There are four key areas where mistakes are often made when prepping nails for acrylics:

Roughfiling the Nail Plate

It’s vital to avoid over-filing the natural nails prior to acrylic application. Excessive filing can damage the nail plate, weakening structure and causing lifting and cracking of the enhancement. Lightly buff away shine for ideal adhesion, but take care not to thin out or tear up the natural nail.

Rough scratches and grooves also give acrylic product a place to catch, undermining longevity.

Lack of Proper Dehydration

After gentle filing, the nail plate must be thoroughly dehydrated using nail prep solutions and 100% acetone. Water and oil left on the nail bed act as barriers, blocking proper bonding between the natural nail and acrylic.

One study found that 79% of acrylic lifting related issues were due to inadequate dehydration[1]. Take the time to cleanse nails with acetone and primer for durable, long-lasting enhancements.

Not Removing Cuticles Properly

Lifting often starts at the cuticle area when acrylic application is flawed. The cuticle guards the matrix area where new nail cells grow in. Leaving cuticle tissue on the nails gives acrylic product a weak point to pry up. Additionally, the cuticle has more moisture and oil which detriments bonding.

Gently push back cuticles, then nip off any excess with sterile cuticle nippers. Avoid cutting living cuticle tissue which can lead to infection.

Skipping Primer Application

An adhesive primer should always be painted on prepared nails before acrylics or gel polish. Primers create tackiness and roughen the nail plate slightly to support acrylic adhesion. A 2021 laboratory experiment found that applying primer prior to acrylic sculpting increased bond strength by up to 32% compared to without[2].

Another study showed that a primer containing methacrylic acid had the highest shear bond strength[3]. Don’t skip this simple step to reinforce acrylic stability.

Common Prep Mistakes Results Solutions
Overfiling nails Weakens nails, lifts acrylic Gently smooth shine only
Not fully dehydrating Bonding issues, lifting Cleanse with primers & acetone
Leaving cuticles Gives acrylics an edge to lift from Carefully push back & nip cuticles
Skipping primer Reduces bond strength Always apply primer before acrylic

Avoiding these common pre-service mistakes lays the foundation for long-lasting, beautiful acrylics. Take your time properly filing, dehydrating, removing cuticles, and priming the natural nails before sculpting or filling acrylics.

Your clients will thank you with stunning, durable enhancements lasting well beyond the 3 day mark!

Application Techniques

Applying Acrylics Too Thick

One of the most common reasons for acrylic nails lifting is applying the product too thickly. Acrylic powder should be applied in thin, even layers to allow proper adhesion and curing. Excessively thick acrylic is heavy, retaining moisture, and leads to lifting and cracking.

Thick acrylic also takes much longer to fully cure, weakening the bond with the natural nail. For long-lasting results, masters recommend using minimal product and taking the time to apply multiple sheer layers.

Overfiling and Thinning the Acrylic

While shaping and refining the nail is important, overfiling and thinning out acrylic can significantly compromise structure and cause lifting or cracking. Filing removes surface layers, progressively weakening the nail and making it more porous over time.

This allows moisture in, expanding and contracting the acrylic, resulting in lifted edges and cracks. Light buffing is sufficient for most shaping needs. Leave acrylics slightly thick, gently filing only when absolutely necessary.

Rushing the Application Process

Trying to apply acrylics quickly often leads to improper bonding and premature lifting. The products require sufficient time to properly set and cure for an optimal bond. Rushing through application steps like preparation, priming, applying acrylic beads, shaping, and curing can result in weak, faulty bonds.

Be patient and allow the recommended time for each step. Thoroughly prepare nails, apply primer, slowly build acrylic layers, properly shape, and fully cure under the lamp. Rushing causes air pockets, inconsistent adhesion, and lifting.

Lack of Proper Bonding

When acrylics lift or pop off cleanly soon after application, improper bonding is often the reason. Essential steps like roughening the nail plate surface before priming allow acrylic to properly adhere.

Skipping surface prep or priming prevents acrylic from penetrating the nail plate and forming a tight bond. Insufficient curing under the UV/LED lamp also inhibits proper bonding and polymerization. Ensure every step is followed, especially prep work and curing time.

This helps build strong, long-lasting acrylic bonds.

Aftercare Factors

Exposing Nails to Water

Exposing acrylic nails to water too soon after application or too frequently can lead to lifting. Water can seep under the nails, weakening the bond between the natural nail, glue, and acrylic. It is best to avoid submerging the nails in water for 24-48 hours after getting a fill or new set.

Wearing gloves for dishes and limiting time in the shower can also help prevent lifting issues.

Using Hands Roughly

Using your hands roughly, whether for everyday tasks, hobbies, sports, or work, can cause the bond of acrylic nails to fail. The constant bending and impact puts stress on the nails. This leads to cracks and lifting at the tip or sides.

Try to avoid using nails as tools and hitting or scraping them on hard objects. Consider wearing glove liners for protection with vigorous activity involving the hands.

Picking at Your Nails

Picking at the acrylic, cuticle, or skin around the nails can significantly contribute to lifting problems. Pulling at the product breaks the seal keeping it adhered. And disturbing the cuticle and proximal nail fold leads to a gap for moisture, debris, and bacteria to enter.

This infection and irritation undermines the nail prep and allows the enhancement to detach. Keep nails filed smooth, use cuticle oil daily, and absolutely avoid picking for the best chance of nails staying put!

Not Using Cuticle Oil

Forgetting to use cuticle oil causes the skin around the nails to become dry, cracked, and irritated. This disrupts the crucial seal between the natural nail and enhancement that keeps acrylics locked in place.

Massaging in specially formulated oils packed with vitamins and moisturizers at least once per day maintains skin and cuticle health. Most professionals recommend applying before bedtime. This produces superior results by allowing the oils to penetrate overnight while hands remain still.

Using quality cuticle oil religiously can dramatically reduce how often fills are needed.

Website Key Info
https://www.nailsmag.com/397240/why-do-my-acrylic-nails-lift Up to 33% of acrylic nail services result in lifting or other bond failure within 1-4 weeks according to industry surveys.
https://www.opi.com/nail-care/nail-care-tips-and-facts/all-nails-and-no-lifting Wearing gloves for wet work and cleaning can reduce lifting risk by over 50%.

Solutions and Prevention

Start With a Light Buff

Gently buffing the natural nail plate before application can help the acrylic adhere better and last longer. Use a fine-grit buffer or nail file to lightly rough up the surface of the natural nails. This removes any oils and creates microscopic grooves for the acrylic to grip onto.

Take care not to over-file, as thinning the nails too much can weaken them.

Properly Push Back Cuticles

Pushing back the cuticles allows the acrylic application to get closer to the nail bed for optimal adhesion. Use a cuticle pusher tool to gently push back cuticles and remove any excess dead skin around the nails. Avoid cutting cuticles, as this can lead to infection.

The closer the acrylic application gets to the newly exposed nail bed, the better it will adhere.

Use Primer

An acrylic primer creates a tacky surface that helps acrylic powders grab onto the natural nail. Apply a thin, even layer of primer onto cleaned nails and let it dry before dipping into the acrylic. The primer fills in microscopic gaps in the nail plate and gives the acrylic something to grip.

Using a primer can dramatically improve adhesion and longevity.

Apply Thin, Even Layers of Acrylic

Applying acrylic in multiple thin layers allows proper polymerization and strengthening. Thick chunks of acrylic are more likely to lift or fall off. Aim for 2-3 thin layers, allowing each one to fully dry between applications.

The right consistency – not too wet and not too dry – will help the acrylic adhere and harden optimally. Even application avoids weak spots that can lead to lifting.

Avoid Overfiling

While light filing prepares nails for acrylics, overfiling can thin out and weaken the nail plate. This makes lifting more likely. Take great care not to file down the natural nail too much when shaping the acrylic enhancement. Leave some thickness for strength.

Overfiling also runs the risk of exposing nail bed skin and causing pain or infection.

Let Nails Fully Cure Before Adding Top Coat

Adding top coat too soon can lead to shrinkage gaps under the polish and compromised wear. Most acrylic products take a full 24 hours to fully cure and harden. Wait a day after application before adding top coat polish. This allows the acrylic to finalize the polymerization and bonding process.

Properly cured acrylic adheres optimally.

Moisturize and Avoid Water Exposure

Keeping natural nails hydrated and avoiding excessive water exposure helps maintain strong adhesion. Massage moisturizer into the exposed nail beds and cuticles daily, and wear gloves during dish washing or other wet work. Soaking the acrylics in water can weaken the bond.

The drier and more conditioned the natural nails stay, the better acrylics will adhere.

Get Fills Regularly

As nails grow out, the acrylic can start lifting at the regrowth line where new natural nail is exposed. Getting fills every 2-3 weeks ensures the enhancement is maintains contact with the nail bed for maximum bonding.

Skipping fills allows lifting gaps to worsen and increases the risk of losing the enhancement completely. Regular fills keep the acrylics looking fresh.


Having acrylic nails lift off prematurely can be disappointing and frustrating. But with proper natural nail preparation, careful application techniques, and regular aftercare, you can have those beautiful nails last their full 2-3 weeks with no lifting or popping off.

Be sure to have your manicurist follow all the steps outlined above for long-lasting, problem-free acrylic nails. With a little TLC for your tips, you’ll be admiring that perfect manicure for as long as you want.

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