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How to Protect Acrylic Nails When Tanning

Never have acrylic nails been so popular as they are today. Women and girls get acrylic nails in different shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. Since individuality is important, acrylic nails make it easy to express your creativity and stand out. But, they do require a certain degree of care or maintenance. Some things are a no-no for persons with acrylic nails, but is tanning one of them? Scroll down to learn more about tanning acrylic nails and whether it’s safe or not, how to protect them, and more.

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Should You Go For Tanning Acrylic Nails?

Tanning beds and acrylic nails are not the best combinations. You see, tanning beds produce an artificial tan by imitating the sun’s UV rays. Sunbeds speed up the production of melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its natural color and thereby produces a nice tan. Many women go to tanning salons even in winter to retain a healthy, tanned look.


Since tanning beds look like huge gel lamps from nail salons, it’s easy to think they’re safe for your nails.

But tanning beds may not be the safest option for your nails. They can mess up your manicure. Why? Regardless of the source, UV rays are a potential danger to the look and life of your acrylic nails. Whether UV rays are natural or artificial is irrelevant, they can still cause yellowing of your nails. These effects can be subtle or drastic, depending on the intensity and duration of exposure. The quality of the acrylic nails also plays a role here.

Damaging effects of UV rays on your acrylic nails don’t mean you should avoid tanning beds. As long as you protect your nails in tanning beds, they will be okay. That said, going tanning without protecting acrylic nails is something you shouldn’t do.

How to Protect Acrylic Nails When Tanning?

Tanning beds can cause yellowing of your acrylic nails unless you protect them beforehand. You can protect your nails by coating them with a UV protectant or covering them physically. Additionally, there are alternative materials used to make “fake nails” that are resistant to UV rays.

When it comes to the easiest method, covering nails physically, you can use plastic bandages or nail savers. The latter are tiny pockets that you slip over the nails and fingertips to cover them and protect them from UV radiation. Once you’re done with the tanning session, you just take these tiny pockets off. Not only are they inexpensive, but also reusable. Plastic bandages are simple to use as well. You just need to wrap them at the end of each finger to protect nails from UV rays.

Nowadays it’s also easy to find and purchase nail polish with UV protection. Then, you just apply the polish onto your acrylic nails, one coat or two. This extra layer of nail polish with UV protection will act as a shield. UV rays will not be able to penetrate under that shield and cause damage to your nails. You can easily consider these products as sunscreen for your nails because they do have the same purpose – protect against UV radiation.

Opting for solar nails can be a great way to prevent yellowing without having to use any of the abovementioned methods. Solar nails are a type of acrylic nail that has a plastic nail extension glued to the tip of a person’s nail. The nail artist paints the powder/liquid formula over the top of the nail to seal it. These nails also happen to last longer than “regular” acrylics.

Self-Tanning With Acrylic Nails

While tanning beds are not the friendliest option for acrylic nails, the question remains – what about self-tanning? Many women opt for tanning products instead of spending time exposed to UV rays in sun-beds.

Generally speaking, it’s unlikely that fake tan will cause staining of your acrylic nails if the product comes in contact with them. Only nails, though! Chemicals inside these products don’t work that way. Self-tanning products often contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) whose main purpose is to react with the upper layers of skin cells on the areas when you apply them. The reaction to that product gives you a tanned look, actually. 

It’s useful to mention, however, self-tanners contain other ingredients besides DHA. These ingredients, such as guide color, can stay on your nails and cuticles. The cuticles are particularly problematic here since they have skin. So these ingredients may leave behind rusty orange discolorations.

In other words, self-tanners are not harmful to your nails per se. They aren’t programmed to stain your nails, but some ingredients may do so when they come in contact with the skin that surrounds your nails.

You can protect your nails i.e. surrounding area from staining before you start applying your self-tanner. Barrier cream is a good option. Spray tanning salons use them as well. But if you don’t have such a cream, you can use an oil-free moisturizer instead. Take the generous amount of the product and apply it to the cuticles. That way, the tanning product won’t stick to the skin and cause reactions that would otherwise leave stains.

Will Fake Tan Stain My White Acrylic Nails?

The answer would be both yes and no. Let us elaborate. Fake tan won’t cause stains on white acrylics per se, but it can stain the cuticles and skin surrounding your nails. So, you should protect your nails accordingly before you decide to get a fake tan. To protect your nails, follow the tip mentioned in the section above. All you need is a good moisturizer or barrier cream.

Other Causes of Stains on Acrylic Nails

When you schedule an appointment at a nail salon, you expect to see results just like you’ve pictured them in your mind. But problems do occur. Tanning is not the only reason your acrylics may stain or turn yellow. Other factors are also useful to know. They include:

  • Poor quality of service – the biggest cause for yellowing or staining of your nails is the place you get them – the salon. Poor quality of service or mistakes with the application process can end with the yellowing of your nails. In most cases, the main culprits are sloppy application processes and old products. Many salons make a mistake by combining old and new products, especially when they’re made by the same brand. Chemicals can react to other chemicals, but also the container. Mixing old and new products, even if the brand is the same, can decrease the quality of your nails. Yet another mistake that may happen at a nail salon is inadequate sealing of the nail. You see, improper sealing traps moisture underneath. Due to moisture, nails can turn yellow and may even lift. Low-quality monomers, old or incompatible products, products with UV protection, and not waiting for primer to dry before applying nail extensions are also potential causes of yellowing and staining.
  • Smoking – while salon-related mistakes are common, your acrylic nails may stain or become yellowish due to lifestyle-related factors such as smoking. This unhealthy habit can cause discoloration of your nails, both natural and acrylic. Nicotine and tar from cigarettes can stain the nails and nail bed.
  • Food – foods and ingredients with bright colors can stain nails and cuticles, just like tanning products. Turmeric is a great example of these ingredients, mangos too.

How to Remove Stains From Acrylic Nails

As you can see, your acrylic nails can turn yellow for more reasons than one. But the question is – how to manage this problem.

First, you need to make wise choices. Get your nails done at reputable salons known for the high quality of service. That is the best way to get the most from your appointment. Otherwise, the problems would occur even without tanning.


Prevention is the most important step here. So, before your tanning bed appointment, you should protect your nails properly. As mentioned above, you can achieve it in several ways. Besides nail savers, you can use plastic bandages or nail polish with UV protection. These preventive measures will bring the risk of yellowing your acrylic nails to a minimum.

But what happens if you apply a tanning product or go get a spray tan and your nails are stained? These tips and tricks can help you out.

Use Water and Soap

Warm, soapy water is the easiest thing you can do to remove stains, particularly if you have sensitive nails and skin. All you need to do is just fill a bowl or sink with warm water, add dishwashing liquid or liquid soap, and put your hands in it making sure there’s enough water to fully cover your fingertips and nails. Keep hands in water for a few minutes and gently rub them. Using cuticle clippers proceed to trim dead skin around nails.

Use a Toothbrush

First, you need to soak your hands in water for a few minutes. Then, using a toothbrush or nailbrush buff around the areas with fake tan. This method acts like exfoliation.

Use a Cotton Pad With Lemon Juice

Lemon works effectively for many tan-related issues thanks to its mildly acidic properties. Use a cotton pad or Q-tip and soak it with lemon juice. Rub the soaked cotton pad against the skin with tanning stains. Rinse with soapy water and apply hand cream.

You can do a similar thing with white vinegar. Make sure to cover all stains with a white vinegar-soaked cotton pad. Rinse after 10 minutes.

See a Nail Artist Again

Besides home remedies for staining and yellowing of acrylic nails, there’s another thing you can do – see the nail artist again. During this appointment, you can explain what happened and get corrections. This is particularly important if your nails have become yellow due to tanning beds. The nail technician knows how to fix the problem and will help you prevent it.

Try Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide can help whiten the yellow and stained nails. It’s easy to use the product. Combine four parts of water and one part hydrogen peroxide, and soak your nails and fingertips for 10 minutes. Another method you can use is to make a paste with 1tbsp of hydrogen peroxide and 2.5tbsp of baking soda. Apply the paste onto the nail area and around it. Rinse the nails after three minutes. Once you’re done, apply a nourishing cream to your hands.

Use Tooth-Whitening Paste

Whitening toothpaste is convenient for managing yellow or stained nails, particularly when those stains are recent. Squeeze a little bit of toothpaste onto the toothbrush and start scrubbing. Wash your hands and moisturize. Remember, this particular method is not meant for stains that developed long ago.

Paint Your Nails

The easiest and fastest way to take care of this problem is to paint your nails. Choose a darker shade to mask the yellowing. While other methods are more advanced, this one is useful when you’re in a hurry.


Use Acetone or Rubbing Alcohol

You shouldn’t use acetone or rubbing alcohol on your skin too often. But in this case, they can help you remove fake tan from underneath the nail effectively. The process is the same as the abovementioned method. Soak the cotton pad in acetone and gently rub the skin.


Acrylic nails are more than just a manicure. They allow us to express ourselves and explore our creativity. We can stand out, be unique, or stick to the basics, it all depends on our preferences. While a woman with acrylic nails can do everything a woman without them can do, tanning may not be the best idea. Tanning beds may cause yellowing whereas spray tanning and self-tanning products can cause stains. You can prevent these problems by protecting your nails first. If you don’t have much experience with yellowed nails, you may want to consult your nail technician.


Should I get nails done before or after a tan?

The answer to this question depends on the type of tanning service. For example, tanning beds may damage your nails. For that reason, getting nails done after the treatment would be a practical idea. Of course, you can get a manicure before tanning but make sure to protect your nails. On the other hand, if you have a spray tan appointment, you may want to get your nails done first. When it comes to tanning products you use at home, the answer may depend on your skills. If you apply a product without messing up the skin around nails, the actual timing of getting your nails done is irrelevant.

Will a tanning bed dry gel nail polish?

Some women online claim they cure gel nail polish by putting their nails closer to the bulb from a tanning bed for two to three minutes. This may not be the wisest idea, though. You see, the UV radiation emitted by those bulbs could be too strong for your nails. On the other hand, UV/LED lamps designed specifically for curing gel nails are a much better option. They will deliver just the right amount or strength of radiation to give you the perfect manicure.

How to get tanning lotion off acrylic nails?

Removing tanning lotion off the acrylic nails or cuticles doesn’t have to be a hassle. There are multiple ways to do so. One option is to use soapy water, which is particularly useful for persons with sensitive hands. Other methods include the use of a toothbrush or nailbrush, cotton pad and lemon juice, or rubbing alcohol, and acetone.

How long do acrylic nails last?

With proper care, acrylic nails will last two to three weeks. After that period, your nails will start growing out naturally. Keep in mind lack of adequate care speeds up this process. Your nails may chip or peel sooner than two weeks that way.

How can I cover my nails when tanning?

The best way to preserve the look of your acrylic nails when tanning is to protect them accordingly. There are several ways to make it happen. One way is to cover them with nail savers or plastic bandages. But you can also use a nail varnish that is resistant to UV rays.

Does tanning turn acrylic nails yellow?

Yes, tanning will make your acrylic nails turn yellow unless you protect them beforehand. Exposing nails to UV radiation, whether it’s real or artificial, can be damaging.

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