Why do acrylic nails hurt or sore the first night after you get them done?

There are four possible answers:

Injured natural nails.

Excessive drilling or buffing nail surface by a nail technician.

Acrylic nail product itself.

Thin natural nails.

The acrylic nails can hurt a few hours after they are put on because of the above four factors. They can either act alone or more likely team up with the other three to cause discomfort, usually the first night.

Causes and steps to relieve your acrylic nail pain are explained below.

Injured natural nails:

If you break a nail yourself and the nail is bleeding or looks bruised, then you should wait for the bleeding to stop or the bruised nail to stop hurting. Trying to lay acrylic nails on these injured fingernails will put unnecessary stresses on them with heat, chemicals from the nails and excessive bending with longer acrylic nails. You will experience pain if any of your nails have one of the following these injuries:

  • Cuts on the skin around or on the cuticle
  • Bleeding hangnails
  • Bruises
  • Break on nails
  • Nail splits that cause bleeding

Sometime, putting acrylic nails on the injured natural nails will cause infection if the wound is not completely cleaned and sanitized and nail salons are not allowed to do this on injured nails anyway. This infection can also cause additional pain on the finger.

Excessive drilling or buffing on nail surface:

The first factor that causes acrylic nails to hurt on the first night is how a nail technician prepares the nail surface before the acrylic application.

He or she can either over-file or buff the natural nail surface that leads to either thinning the nail thickness or putting a small dent on the natural nail surface. You can feel right away if this is the case, especially if the nail technician is using a nail drill on your natural nail surface. You can feel the discomfort right then and it will get worse.

So it is the excessive drilling or buffing on your natural nails that can cause you to experience some pain later in the day.

Acrylic products can hurt:

Thick acrylics can cause fingernails to warp or bend: too thick acrylics on your thin nails might change the normal shape of your nails and cause you to feel some pains.

Various chemical liquid components in acrylic nails can also cause pain:

If you have a low tolerance for acrylic nail products and do not know it yet, then it is possible that you will have soreness or pain as you have acrylic nails put on. Fortunately, this discomfort will be temporary. It should only last a few hours.

If you already know that acrylic nails will hurt you or cause discomfort for a few hours after you have them done, chances are you have a low tolerance for acrylic nails.

We are all different, our immune systems react to a particular chemical product differently. In other words, some people will have higher tolerance with acrylics than others. People with low tolerance with acrylic products will experience some irritation temporarily.

Acrylic nails have been used commercially late 1970’s. Since then, these nail products have time to evolve and improve tremendously. Ease of use, durability and safety features make acrylic nails a mature product. Still, it is a man-made chemical product. This means that acrylic nails are not for everyone.

Since manufacturers create acrylic nail products following their own criteria and specifications, no two acrylic nail products are the same.

Thin natural nails:

The final cause that acrylic nails can hurt might be your own nails. If your natural nails are thin, two things can happen with acrylic nail application:

If your nails are wet for about 15 minutes, your nails will soften. This means that human nails are porous, not one solid piece. Liquids will pass through porous materials. So liquid acrylic nail products like bonding/dehydrator, primers, liquid monomers or nail glues that are applied excessively on top of the nail will seep down to the lower layer and will come in contact with blood vessels and nerve endings in your fingers.

If these liquids are not completely evaporated or dissipated, they will interact with the flesh and cause discomfort or pain until they are completely gone.

Natural nails are flexible. Thinner nails are even more so. When powder and liquid acrylics are mixed, a chemical reaction will take place and it is an exothermic one or giving off heat. After the reaction is complete, a solid product is created. If this solid forming chemical reaction takes place on a thin nail, it more likely to warp or bend the shape of the thin nail under it.

This extra heat and shape bending force will hurt your fingernails until all the extra heat is dissipated and all the nerve endings are getting used to with the nail shape change.

Why do acrylic nails hurt or sore the first night?

For most people, they usually get their acrylic nails done after the end of their workdays, typically from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Any pain or discomfort associated with an acrylic nail application will start a few hours later as your body is trying to either adjust or react to them. From reading all four factors above, you now understand why acrylic nails hurt the first night.

Tips on preventing acrylic nails from hurting you.

If your fingernails hurt or sore because acrylic nails as you are reading this, follow these steps, they should reduce your pains:

  • Soak your finger in cool water for 15 minutes to reduce blood flow, swelling, and pains in your fingernails.
  • Elevate your hands to slow blood flow to the affected fingers as you lay down.
  • Take some over the counter pain relief medicine before you go to bed.

And read through this so you know what to do on your next acrylic nail appointment:

No acrylic nails if your natural nails are injured:

It is best that the injured natural nails get some time to rest and heal before they are ready for acrylic nails. When? You might ask. The rule of thumb is the injured nails should stop bleeding or throbbing for at least two days.

Tell your nail technician to go easy on drilling or buffing:

Do let your nail technician beforehand that the acrylic nails hurts you the night you have them done so he or she will not over-file, drill or buff your nail surface or avoid using an electric nail drill.

Nail drills are the main cause for thinning out or cutting the natural nail surface due to its high speed, powerful device if not used properly.

It is also easy to tell if a nail technician is proficient with his/her nail drill skills.

If you feel uneasy with the way your nail technician is handling an electric nail drill, you can politely ask the salon manager to give you a more experienced nail tech by letting the manager know that you will have pain caused by new acrylic nails at night.

Most managers who have been in the business for a while know of this situation and will happy to replace the nail technician with a more experienced one because they know a happy customer will become a regular customer.

If the manager is unable to replace a new technician for you, chances are there are no better-skilled nail technicians in that salon and the one who works on you is the best available. You have two options:

  1. Either let the nail technician finishes the acrylic nails and endure the pain later or
  2. Leave that salon and search for a better one.

Choose your acrylic nail products:

To find out which acrylic nail product will not hurt you, the next time you get your acrylic nails done, you should ask for the brand of the product so you go through the process of elimination.

If product a hurts you, then next time you will try product b, and so on until you discover a product that does not hurt you. Since typically each salon only carries one brand that they are comfortable using. You either can buy a sample product kit and ask your nail technician to use it on you or you might have to change salon.

This is a small price for pay for getting rid of the pain or discomfort you might endure later.

Have your acrylic nails done using a technique for thin natural nails:

Two things you can do to prevent pains from happening on your thin nails:

  1. Apply a thin acrylic layer: a thin acrylic layer will create less heat and exert less force on the nails. Therefore thin nails will not be subject to too much of either one.
  2. Wear shorter lengths: longer nails will require more acrylics to make them thicker and stronger at various stress points whereas shorter nails will require much less acrylic material and therefore your nails will be subject to less heat and less bending.


Having acrylic nails done should be a fun and positive experience. Now you know what and why acrylic nails can hurt the first night after it is applied and you can use this information in this article to prevent yourself from enduring unnecessary pains.

Related article:

Your cuticles are itchy after you get your nails done? If you use any cuticle remover or softener product on your nails, this article is a must read. It describes the major causes of itchy cuticle issue that could be avoided and a simple remedy to relieve the itch at home.

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