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Saint Martin’s University Biology Journal

May 2006, Volume 1

Acrylic Nail and Native Nail Bacteria

Pelenita M. Tuupo, Saint Martin’s University, 5300 Pacific Avenue SE, Lacey, WA 98503. This work was supported by Saint Martin’s University.


The purpose of my senior seminar experiment was to compare bacterial growth in both acrylic and native nails when they are unwashed and washed. My hypothesis was that in both instances, acrylic nails would contain more bacteria than native nails. I used two types of methods for my research. The first type of method I used was the Counting of Bacterial Colonies Method. The second type of method I used was the Spectrophotometer method. I tested for bacteria in both methods followed by recording my data for analyzing results. After all the data were collected, I used an ANOVA to compare bacterial growth between acrylic nails and native nails when unwashed and washed. I found no statistically significant difference in bacterial growth from acrylic nails and native nails (unwashed and washed). An uneven number of participants and the hand washing techniques of some people may have had an effect on why my results failed to support my hypothesis. It was odd that acrylic nails and native nails had more bacteria when washed than unwashed, because it is known that soap can reduce the amount of bacteria. It seems that the hand washing technique increased bacteria, as it lifted the bacteria from areas the water and soap couldn’t reach. I suggest more participants and better hand washing techniques if this experiment was to be repeated in the future, for better results regarding the comparison of bacteria in acrylic nails and native nails, unwashed and washed.


In today’s society treatment of nails, such as nail cosmetics and acrylics, are increasingly used, especially by young women. Nail health is a health concern because the growth of bacteria within the nails causes unhealthy, thin, and brittle nails. Acrylic is a chemical used in nail cosmetics to fasten artificial nails to the natural nail, and contains methyl methacrylate (Gallagher et al., 2003). Items such as finger nail polish contain formaldehyde or toluene (chemicals used to harden nails) and can deteriorate nail beds over time (Eastburn, 2002). Acrylic nails are also associated with allergies that occur at the time of application to the nail itself, and distant allergic contact dermatitis (when small amounts of nail cosmetics are transferred by the hand to other areas of the body) (Orton and

Wilkinson, 2004).

A recent epidemiologic survey by Orton and Wilkinson (2004) revealed that 23% of women experience some sort of adverse reaction to a personal care product (i.e. nail cosmetics) over the course of a year. Although most of these reactions may be due to subjective sensory irritation, some dermatologic patients who are patch tested are allergic to cosmetic products or their constituent ingredients (Orton and Wilkinson, 2004). Causative products include deodorants and perfumes, skin care products, hair care products, and nail cosmetics (Orton and Wilkinson, 2004). Not only will the chemicals in nail cosmetic products harm nails and cause allergic reactions, but nail cosmetic tools used in nail shops also contribute to complications with


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