Do Nails Breathe? Should I Take Polish Breaks?

Posted by Ana on Feb 26th 2013

Do nails breathe?


"Hey Ana, I need your help to settle something. I had a little argument with a friend of mine a few days ago. My friend says she usually takes a month off from painting after a manicure chips off to air it out, but I said it takes a few days, maybe a week at most. Who's right?" ~Annika

Do Nails Breathe Removing Polish


Neither of you.

This is another huge old-wives tale and I have no idea where it started.

One hundred (100) layers of flattened, dead keratin don't breathe. Dead is Dead.

My best guess for this silly belief is that when using your acetone, it strips oil and water from your nails, making them feel dry and tight. If you do this process repeatedly without proper hydration, your nails are going to feel and be really dry.

The misnomer would be that people thought it was the polish causing the dryness, when it's really the acetone or non-acetone remover causing the dryness.

So then, when they left the polish off to "so called breathe," their nails soaked up water while doing chores and washing hands. This causes your nails to feel better temporarily.

Where nails are concerned, rehydration means oil...not water. Our nails don't have any trouble soaking up water because the molecule is smaller than oil. And the only oil molecule small enough to penetrate the nail plate is jojoba oil.

Rehydrating your nails with oil doesn't happen in 10 minutes. It takes 3 days.

"Oil is absorbed into the nail plate to plasticize it (flexibility), but much more slowly than water. Just as oils are absorbed more slowly into the nail plate, it is also more difficult for the oils to escape. Therefore, oils stay in in the plate for a very long time and can exert a dramatic long-term influence on the durability of the natural nail plate."
~Doug Schoon, Nail Structure and Product Chemistry.

The Opposite Truth

A better practice after removing a manicure is to give your nails 2 to 8 hours to rehydrate with a jojoba based nail oil. Then, when you're ready to do your manicure, remove the surface layer of oil with rubbing alcohol and move on to your basecoat.

The great news is that nail polish actually helps prevent your nails from drying out! It helps trap the oil in your nails and helps prevent excessive water absorption, especially if you completely wrap your nail tips with top coat.

What Do You Think?

Did this article change your thoughts in any way?