Nail Lab

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Effects of Over-Filing/Drilling on the Nail Plate

A lot of the damage comes from a common malpractice in some nail salons - aggressive filing or drilling on the natural nail plate.

We’ve heard it all so many times before; women complaining about their damaged natural nails “caused by acrylic nails.”  As educated nail techs, you know that acrylic (or gel for that matter) is not the issue.  A lot of the damage comes from a common malpractice in some nail salons - aggressive filing or drilling on the natural nail plate.

Why Do Some Nail Techs Do It?

The nail plate is made up about 100 densely packed sheets of flattened cells.  It’s a super-tough, non-living structure primarily made up of keratin.  It’s also a smooth surface, which is why light filing (to remove the shine) is necessary during prep to ensure adhesion.  This light filing only removes 3-5 layers of the nail plate, which is safe and non-damaging.

Aggressive filing or drilling can quickly move through 25-35 layers of nail plate or more!  Now, you are applying product to the, spongy porous layers of nail plate.  Enhancements will grab the porous layers, like pouring Elmers glue into shag carpet.  Pretty difficult to remove Elmers glue from shag carpet, but it comes off linoleum easier. Most filing is done in zone three; the regrowth area with younger, softer cells that have not completely flattened.  The cost is the health of the natural nail.  Proper preparation of the natural nail includes a number of steps to ensure adhesion.  Pitting, etching or drilling on the nail plate is an outdated, damaging, unnecessary step to natural nail prep.

What Are the Effects?

Here are a few symptoms of aggressive filing or drilling on the nail plate:

#1) Onycholysis: This is the loosening of the nail plate without shedding and it usually starts at the free edge and can continue to the lunula.  The nail plate is held to the dermis (or skin) by a groove and rail structure.  That is how it stays on track as it moves or grows.  Aggressive filing or drilling can dislodge the plate from the groove and rail structure, leading to Onycholysis.  Onycholysis can lead to secondary infection and in severe cases, lead to nail bed scarring.

Discoloration on the Free Edge Caused By Onycholysis

#2) Splinter Hemorrhage: This is caused by physical trauma, which can include aggressive filing or drilling on the natural nail.  Under the nail plate, the nail bed contains blood vessels which carry nutrients and oxygen to the nail bed, as well as remove toxins.  When the nail plate is damaged (in this case by aggressive filing or drilling) the blood vessels can leak blood into the nail bed - staining the nail bed in a vertical direction.  The blood stain may last long after the trauma has healed.

Splinter Hemorrhage

#3) Rings of Fire: These are red, painful patches that develop on the nail plate from aggressive filing or drilling on the natural nail. Rings of fire are more commonly found in zone 3 (around the cuticle) when caused by drilling.  When used at an angle in the cuticle area, the edge of the barrel bits cuts into the natural nail – ouch!

Rings of Fire

Rules to Live By

NEVER use a drill (aka electric file) on the natural nail.  Even with a light abrasive, they are simply to powerful and run at high RPMs.  File on the natural nail with a light hand using a 180-grit file or higher.  A lower grit is too abrasive for the natural nail and should only be used to shape or remove acrylic or gel product.  Educate your clients as you are prepping their nails and explain why you are doing what you do – to maintain the health of the natural nail. 

 

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