A close-up photo capturing a freshly painted acrylic nail that has partially chipped off, revealing the natural nail underneath, raising questions about the durability and longevity of acrylic nails.

Do Acrylics Fall Off? A Comprehensive Guide

Acrylic nails have become an extremely popular nail enhancement option, allowing you to have beautiful, lengthy nails that can last for weeks at a time. However, one of the most common questions about acrylics is whether they will fall off your natural nails.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Acrylics can fall off your natural nails if they are not applied properly by your nail technician. However, with proper application and care, acrylic nails should stay securely attached for 2-3 weeks before needing to be filled.

What Causes Acrylic Nails to Fall Off?

Poor Application

One of the most common reasons for acrylic nails falling off is that they were not applied properly in the first place. An untrained or inexperienced nail technician may fail to prep the natural nail correctly by removing shine and roughing up the surface for better adhesion.

They may also apply the acrylic unevenly or use low-quality products, leading to cracking, lifting, or breaking.

Lifting at the Cuticle

When acrylic is not sealed tightly against the nail plate, moisture can get in and cause lifting at the cuticle and sidewalls. This allows an entry point for more water, eventually weakening the bond and causing the acrylic to detach.

Be sure your nail tech pushes back and cleans up the cuticle area thoroughly before application.

Exposure to Moisture

Since acrylic nails are adhesive-based, exposure to water can break down the bond between the product and natural nail. Frequent handwashing, showering, swimming, or other wet environments can cause the acrylic to gradually lift away.

Always wear gloves when washing dishes or cleaning to protect the nails.

Excessive Filing and Buffing

While light shaping and buffing is normal during fills, over-filing the surface thins out the acrylic layer too much. This weakens its durability and structure, making it more likely to crack or peel off, especially at the tips.

Your nail tech should use a gentle hand to conserve the thickness of the acrylic.

Using Hands Roughly

Acrylic nails can pop off if subjected to rough treatment. Opening soda cans, using tools, gardening, and other activities can cause enough trauma to break the acrylic’s adhesive bond. Be gentle on your hands and avoid picking at the nails to keep them in place longer.

How to Prevent Acrylics From Falling Off

Choose an Experienced Nail Tech

Choosing an experienced, reputable nail tech is key for getting long-lasting acrylic nails. Look for salons with consistently good reviews and ask the tech how long they’ve been doing acrylics. An experienced tech will prep the nails properly, apply the acrylics correctly, and give tips to help them last.

Going to an amateur can lead to lifting, cracking, and breakage.

Avoid Exposure to Moisture

Exposure to water is one of the biggest causes of lifting and peeling with acrylic nails. When possible, wear gloves when washing dishes, cleaning, or dealing with chemicals. Avoid long soaks in the tub and use a nail brush when washing hands. Pat nails dry after washing rather than rubbing.

Moisture gets trapped under the acrylics, causing them to separate from the natural nails.

Use Cuticle Oil Daily

Applying cuticle oil around and under the edges of the acrylic nail 2-3 times per day will help keep nails flexible and adhered to the natural nail. Jojoba, vitamin E, and coconut oils help prevent cracking and peeling.

Gently push back cuticles and massage the oil into the nail bed for maximum hydration.

Avoid Picking at Your Nails

Resist the urge to pick off peeling edges or imperfections in the acrylics. This can cause more lifting and make nails prone to breaking or popping off. Use a nail file to gently smooth down any lifted edges.

See your nail tech right away if you notice a crack or significant lifting to prevent it from worsening.

Get Fills on Time

As your natural nails grow out, the acrylics can start to separate and lift away from the nail bed. Get fills every 2-3 weeks to prevent this issue. The nail tech will file off any lifting and apply fresh acrylic to the new growth for a seamless, adhered look.

Trying to stretch out your fills too long is asking for trouble.

What to Do if an Acrylic Nail Falls Off

Clean the Area Gently

If one of your beautiful acrylic nails happens to pop off, the first thing you’ll want to do is gently clean the area underneath where the nail used to be. Run some lukewarm water over the area and gently scrub with a soft brush or washcloth to remove any adhesive residue that may be left behind from the fallen nail tip.

Be very delicate, as the skin around the nail bed may be a little raw or sensitive after the abrupt nail loss. Pat dry thoroughly afterwards.

Apply Antibiotic Ointment

After cleaning the nail bed area, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment like Neosporin. This will protect the exposed skin and prevent infection while it heals. Let the ointment soak in for about 5-10 minutes before moving on.

The antibiotic properties will promote healing while acting as a barrier against germs entering the open nail bed area.

Cover with Bandage

Once the antibiotic ointment has had some time to penetrate the skin, go ahead and cover the bare nail bed with a lightweight bandage or adhesive bandage strip. This will keep the area protected from trauma throughout your day. Waterproof bandages work best.

Be sure to change the bandage daily while waiting for your fill appointment. Keeping the nail bed covered prevents snagging and shields vulnerability.

Book a Fill Appointment

The final step is to book a fill appointment with your nail technician as soon as possible. According to the Nail Care HQ website, you should fill an acrylic or gel manicure every 2-3 weeks. When you lose an acrylic prematurely, the surrounding nails are still intact, so see your tech right away for a repair on the missing nail.

They will apply a new nail tip and blend it to match the rest of your set. Continuing fills maintains structure integrity.

When to Remove Instead of Replacing Acrylics

Multiple Nails Falling Off

If several of your acrylic nails start popping off, it’s a sign that the bond between your natural nails and the acrylics is weakening. This can happen due to oil contamination during fills or a variety of other reasons.

Rather than trying to reapply the acrylics that fell off, it’s best to remove all of the acrylics and allow your natural nails to recover before starting a new set.

According to popular nail care websites like Cosmopolitan and Healthline, having half your acrylics fall off means it’s time for a full removal. This prevents further damage to the natural nails under the remaining acrylics.

The recovery period allows moisture to return to the nails so they can better bond with the next acrylic application.

Damaged Natural Nails

Lifting acrylic nails can create a lot of wear and tear on your natural nails beneath them. If you notice peeling, cracking, inflammation or other signs of damage, its best to remove the acrylics completely.

The Cleveland Clinic recommends acrylic removal when you see redness, swelling, changes in nail texture or severe natural nail damage under the acrylic. Trying to reapply acrylics on top of unhealthy natural nails often leads to more lifting and further damage.

Allergies or Infections

Some people develop allergic reactions to acrylic monomer liquid or other acrylic nail products. You may notice redness, bumps, swelling, warmth and throbbing under the acrylic nails. If this happens, its essential to see a dermatologist and remove the acrylic nails to allow healing.

Likewise, fungal or bacterial infections under acrylic nails require a full set removal. According to Healthline, infections thrive under the warm moist environment acrylics provide. Trying to reapply acrylics on top of an infection is counterproductive and may worsen symptoms. Let the nails heal fully before attempting a new acrylic set.


While having an acrylic nail pop off can be annoying and disappointing, it doesn’t have to spell the end of your acrylic nail journey. With proper application and care, acrylics should stay securely attached for weeks at a time before needing a fill.

However, if you do experience multiple nails falling off or any signs of damage to the natural nails, it’s best to remove the acrylics completely and give your natural nails a break before trying again.

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