Can I Wear Acrylic Nails During Surgery?

Are you due for a surgery you have postponed for a while, or even a super urgent one? There is usually a list of do’s and don’ts to prepare for the hospital, and some might need clarification.

Let’s jump into the world of surgeries and nail polish and discover the rules around the protocols.

Can I Wear Acrylic Nails During Surgery?

In most major surgery, you are not allowed to wear acrylic nails or any type of polish. The reason is that nail polishes contain chemical composition that can lead to infection. Also, nail polish can also make the oximeter probe work improperly, which results in misinformation during the operation.

can i wear acrylic nails during surgery

We are in the 21st Century, and women might wonder: how can acrylic nails still influence a surgery that has nothing to do with hands? They had to move on with time and get more modern ways to do this, right? But, no, this is the best way to test perfusion to the extremities.

The oximeter probe the nurses put on your finger during surgery is the most reliable and fastest method to get your blood oxygen level readings. It ensures you are safe, no matter what day and age you are in. There are alternative ways, but these are not always reliable and might be more intrusive and painful.

Why You Should Remove Your Acrylic Nails For Surgery

remove polish with a cotton ball

There are a few reasons you should remove not only acrylic nails, but any type of nail polish including gel polish, regular polish, or polygel before a scheduled surgery. One of them is the main reason, and others are to ensure everything goes smoothly and you get out of the hospital safely.

Read my article about how you can remove nail polish with sugar at home, so you can do it prior to your scheduled surgery. If your gel polish won’t come off, try other methods mentioned in my other article.

  • The oximeter the nurse places on your finger is the main reason you shouldn’t wear any gel or acrylic nail polish. This infrared method struggles to work through a challenging, thick shell of artificial nails. It can lead to erroneous results and repercussions.
  • The color of the natural nails is always a quick indication to the doctors of sufficient blood flow. Unfortunately, if you have nail polish, they won’t be able to use this tracking method.
  • Long acrylic nails can easily carry dirt and debris under them. If your manicure has a weak spot and things are trapped in a crack, it can lead to infection or complicated consequences.

People who need regular surgery should rethink their nail polish routine. If you are one of these, stick to clear, regular nail polish, or don’t do anything at all.

Suppose you are scheduled for hand surgery, like a carpal tunnel; there are no two ways; you will have to remove your acrylic nails. The visuals of the fingers and nails are essential for the doctor during these surgeries.

The rules around nail polish are only for the patient’s safety, and the caregivers are not trying to sabotage your manicure. On the contrary, they want to prevent anything bad from happening at all costs.

Options If You Don’t Want To Remove Acrylic Nails

There are options if you won’t want to remove your acrylic nails. Whether your healthcare provider will agree to it will differ from one to another.

Use Other Ways To Monitor Perfusion

For surgery that isn’t that abrasive, you can talk to your caregiver about alternate ways to measure oxygen levels. For example, they can use a non-polished toenail or monitor from the neck or head. Another option is to draw blood, but the procedure is more extensive. In addition, the results will take longer, as the lab should develop them first.

The hospital usually implements the alternatives above if someone comes in for an emergency and they have acrylic or gel nails. 

The protocol for regular nail polish is to remove it. Either the nurse will do it if you cannot do it yourself, or they will give the nail polish remover to you. Emergency vehicles also have remover and will remove your polish before you enter the hospital if possible.

Remove Acrylic Nail Polish on One or Two Fingers

One of the options the nurses give patients is to remove the acrylic nail polish from two fingers (one on each hand). This gives them access to an open finger on each side. This way, you can keep your manicure and give them access to do their job.

Sometimes, you will have to decide if it is worth arguing, being stubborn, sticking to the rules for your safety, and continuing your manicure afterward. Always consult your caregiver, doctor, or nurse about your concerns regarding nail polish, and ensure you come to your surgery prepared.

What About Doctors’ And Nurses’ Nails?

a doctor with nail polish on her hand

Nurses have strict rules and regulations when it comes to their own nails. Their nails have to be short with no nail polish. Suppose they want a clear polish; they can opt for a no-smudge or long-lasting clear polish.

Hospitals implement these rules to keep patients safe. The nurses can do their jobs sufficiently and quickly with short nails, not setting the patient up for more pain than they are already experiencing. Extensive studies were done on the nails of nurses, and the results speak volumes = no polish is the safest way to go.

No polish removes the possibility of infection from their polish that didn’t dry well or bringing debris into the theatre. In addition, scrubbing their hands multiple times a day reduces an acrylic manicure’s life and quality. It is a waste of time and money.

The microbes that live under the nails cannot always be cleaned thoroughly. Yes, they must wear gloves, but no gloves stay intact for an entire 40 to 90-minute surgery without tiny tears. There have been instances where artificial nails caused post-surgery wound infections and even death.


You might go for minor surgery or prepping for a major one. It is time to skip your manicure, rest your nails, and ensure your safety in surgery. No acrylic nails will make the nurses’ work easier and prevent unwanted turns of events because of a manicure. There is always another time for a manicure, but you might not be so lucky in surgery.