Can Nurses Wear Nail Polish or Not?

The policies regarding the use of nail polish depend upon the particular department the nurse works for. These policies vary from different healthcare facilities, states, and countries.

Read the section below to know more about nail polish and acrylics use for nurses!

But can nurses wear nail polish in certain situations? Let’s find that out.

Having perfect painted nails is a dream of every woman. Nails reflect how well-groomed you are, they add a touch of elegance and sophistication.

However, for nurses, the use of nail polish is strictly banned in a majority of healthcare facilities.

The healthcare facilities which allow their nurses to wear nail polish or acrylics are very rare. Mostly, there are restrictions and sometimes even a complete ban on the use of nail polish.

As already mentioned above, the use of nail polish depends on the department in which a nurse works.

For example, if a nurse does not work directly for patient care, she may be allowed to wear minimal nails. But, if a nurse works in a department where direct patient care is required, she may be completely restricted to wear nail polish.

These restrictions are generally imposed to ensure the safety of patients and to maintain a complete hand sanitization to prevent any infection.

Due to these reasons, nurses are generally required to keep their nails short and free from any nail polish or artificial nails.

Here’s a quick video for you where Miki Rai shares her own experiences with acrylic nails working as a nurse.

Video made by Miki Rai

Whether did you watched the video or not, let’s keep on going with the subject “Can Nurses Wear Nail Polish?”.

As a matter of fact, it is not about allowing or banning nail polish, it is all about hand hygiene.

In almost all healthcare facilities, nurses are instructed to wash their hands very often using soaps and hand sanitizers in order to kill the germs and bacteria from their hands before coming in contact with the patients.

The main reason why nail polish or acrylics are banned, they chip and breaks off and also have harmful bacteria beneath them.

To address this issue, some healthcare facilities allow the nurses to wear nail polish that doesn’t chip off or break easily but still keep their nails trimmed.

However, as noted above, it solely depends on the policies and guidelines of the healthcare facility and the government.

Related articles of ours:

  • How Can Nurses Influence Policy?
  • Can Nurses Wear Makeup or Not?
  • Can Nurses Wear Dip Powder Nails?

Additionally, the good news is, there are no such restrictions on wearing nail polish on toes because feet are always covered with stockings and shoes.

So, it is fine to paint your toenails.

However, make sure to comply with the guidelines of your facility.

Now you know the answer to whether can nurses wear nail polish or not, so it’s time to find out why is that.

See also: Can Nurses Wear Wedding Rings?

Why use of nail polish is banned for nurses?

Can nurses have gel nails

There are three main reasons behind the banning of nail polish and acrylics for nurses.

1. Chipped off nail polish / broken acrylics

The first major reason is, some low-quality nail polish gets chipped off a couple of days after the application.

Similar is the case with artificial nails. These are the main health concerns of the hospitals.

2. Nails accessories may carry harmful germs

Germ collection is another reason to ban nail polish.

Depending upon the quality, nail polish and acrylics may carry deadly germs and viruses inside them which can be harmful to the patients.

There are fair chances of infection and can also spread from person to person.

3. May be a distraction or can cause difficulties while working

Many healthcare facilities ban the use of long artificial nails and bright nail polish because it acts as a distraction and also doesn’t look modest.

Further, longer nails make it difficult to use the tools nurses use very frequently.

That’s why nurses are advised to keep their nails as short as possible.

Also, some departments allow them to wear long-lasting neutral-colored nail polish.

Can nurses wear gel nail polish?

On a general basis, gel nails and acrylic are strictly banned in almost all healthcare facilities because it is believed that these can carry many harmful bacteria.

So, wearing gel nails as a nurse is a direct no-no.

See also: Can Nurses Have Colored Hair?

Can nurses wear shellac nail polish?

Can nurses have gel nails

Shellac nail polish is not like the acrylic nails and it lasts for much longer than the regular nail polish.

Shellac nails or manicures are cured under UV lamps and hence, stays for longer.

Due to this reason, some hospitals allow the nurses to wear shellac nails instead of gel nails because they can resist chipping and breaking and hence, are not that risky.

Read more  How to Protect Acrylic Nails When Tanning

While some healthcare facilities put them in the category of artificial nails and ban their use completely.

Can nurses wear nails polish in the UK?

In the UK, nurses are strictly warned about wearing fake nails and nail polish.

For the first time, it happened because a poll suggested that there were chances of contamination and infection due to the nail polish and extensions worn by nurses.

Because of this, the United Kingdom guidelines state that nails should be free from any paint and should be well-trimmed.

Can nurses wear nail polish in Australia?

Healthcare guidelines are a bit strict in Australia.

The nurses are asked to keep their nails short about less than 0,5 cm in length.

And the nails should be completely natural and free from nail paints.

All types of nails including gel, shellac, and SNS are banned in Australia.

The reason is the same, painted, chipped, or fake nails harbor harmful bacteria that can outbreak infections.

So, if you’re a nurse in Australia, make sure you follow the protocol and comply with the guidelines of the facility you work in.

See also: Can Nurses Have Tattoos in Australia?

Conclusion: Can nurses wear nail polish?

After knowing and understanding the reason behind the ban of nail polish for nurses, it can be concluded that the use of nail paints, extensions, acrylics depends upon in which department the nurse is operating and what are the hand-hygiene guidelines of the healthcare facility or the state government.

It is advised that, before getting your nails painted, check out your guidelines by contacting your department.

As a nurse, it is your responsibility to prioritize the health of your patients and keep yourself and your surroundings safe and clean.

See also: Responsibility of a Nurse With Examples

No matter if your department allows you to wear nail polish or not, you should always keep your nails short and trimmed, and free from harmful chemicals.

You can always do whatever you want on vacations but don’t forget to remove the varnishes before getting back to work.

Moreover, always follow the policies set by your organization.

Now you know all about whether can nurses wear nail polish or not.

If you would like to learn more, check out these articles of ours:

  • Can Nurses Have Tattoos?
  • Can Nurses Wear Earrings?
  • Can Nurses Wear Apple Watches?
  • Can Nurses Wear Crocs or Not? Learn the Facts
  • Can Nurses Wear Makeup to Work?
  • Can Registered Nurse Do Botox?

I’d appreciate if you could give this article a star rating. Thank you in advance!

About Ida Koivisto, BSN, RN, PHN

Can nurses have gel nailsIda is a both registered nurse and public health nurse. Her passion is to provide as much as possible valuable information about nursing to the world. In her spare time from work and blogging, Ida loves to workout at the gym and spend time with relatives.

View all posts by Ida Koivisto, BSN, RN, PHN | Website

— Update: 11-02-2023 — found an additional article Can Nurses Wear Nail Polish at Work or School? from the website for the keyword can nurses have gel nails.

Can nurses have gel nails

In short, yes, most nurses can wear nail polish.

Nevertheless, using nail polish depends on the employer, work setting, and healthcare facility/department.

Ultimately healthcare facilities implement their policies based on numerous factors.

It includes sanitary practices, patient/employee health risks, the healthcare setting, potential environmental hazards, dress-code guidelines, and more.

As a result, some facilities allow nurses to wear nail polish, while others restrict or ban its use altogether.

For example, a low-risk healthcare department or doctor’s office may allow basic nail polish if it doesn’t present a hazard.

However, high-risk infectious environments such as the ICU, surgical department, or transplant unit may restrict or ban its use.

These policies ensure safety and health by maintaining sanitary hand hygiene compliance with the healthcare facility.

Nurses must keep their nails trimmed and well-manicured to ensure that they don’t harbor infectious germs under their nails.

Additionally, nurses must wash their hands frequently and use special soap/hand sanitizers to remove germs when dealing with patients.

Healthcare facilities that allow nurses to wear nail polish require finishes that don’t chip or break.

Furthermore, most facilities ban using acrylic nails, artificial nails, gel nails, and extensions.

The healthcare facility, the state, the government, and CDC generally set these guidelines.

With that said, nurses cover their feet for sanitary and safety purposes. Therefore, wearing nail polish and other products on their toes/feet is likely o.k.

After all, you can completely cover them with clogs or nursing shoes.

In the end, nurses must always check with human resources and the department to ensure they follow proper protocol.

College and University Rules

In addition to healthcare facilities, colleges/universities may restrict certain nail products.

Ultimately, they can require nursing students to follow specific guidelines or ban nail products completely.

As with healthcare facilities, nursing college/university policies vary based on the school.

Furthermore, most nursing schools require students to be drug tested and even run a background check before admission.

It prepares students for their careers and sets a standard for what the college deems acceptable for their program.

These rules give students an early understanding of the policies they must abide by as registered nurses.

It also allows the nursing school to set dress-code policies and healthcare requirements.

Reasons for Banning Nail Polish and Acrylics

A healthcare facility will ban nail polish, acrylics, gels, extensions, and other products for several reasons.

It includes unwanted nail chipping/breaking, germ collection and infectious transmission, and work hazards caused by extensions.

These factors can negatively impact patient/employee health, increase hazardous risks, and create an unprofessional appearance.

Because patient care is of the utmost importance, healthcare providers must follow safety guidelines to minimize infection risks of nail polish.

Read more  Best Nail Polish Colors for Tan Skin Tones-Summer & Fall Ideas

Chipping and Breaking

One of the most common concerns with nail polish is the potential of chipping and breaking.

Depending on the polish applied to the nails; there’s a chance for chipping and breaking to occur.

It can create health concerns at the healthcare center as chipped/broken nail polish can transfer germs, infectious diseases, and harmful bacteria.

Furthermore, it’s unprofessional and creates conflict among patients treated by that healthcare professional.

As a result, most healthcare departments limit the use of certain nail products.

Additionally, high-risk environments may completely ban their use altogether.

It reduces the risk of harmful bacteria, germs, and diseases negatively impacting patients’ and employees’ health.

That said, high-quality nail polish is acceptable if the healthcare facility considers it satisfactory.

Germ Collection

As mentioned previously, acrylics or fake nails collect germs and bacteria that can transfer to other individuals.

It violates healthcare facilities ‘ hand-hygiene policies and CDC guidelines.

Furthermore, it creates a potential for germs and bacteria to spread from person to person and affect the nurse’s health.

Most nurses must remove acrylics, fake nails, and nail extensions.

Additionally, nurses must ensure that their nails are the appropriate length before starting their shift.

It is true even when it’s their natural nails. Besides collecting germs, long nails can scratch and cut people and even create a hazard when handling equipment.

Interference with Work

One of the reasons healthcare facilities prohibit acrylics (and long natural nails) is that they interfere with everyday work.

Nails that are too long may make it challenging to manipulate specific tools or equipment.

Ultimately, this creates potential work hazards that can negatively impact the employee and patient.

For instance, applying bandages, changing an IV, using syringes, wearing gloves, and manipulating equipment are much more difficult with long nails.

Therefore many healthcare facilities require nurses to trim their nails and ban acrylics and nail extensions.

Even if nurses are cautious and take proper care of their hands, the risk is too high for most facilities to accept.

What About Hand Cream Lotion?

Hand cream lotions are essential for most trained nurses. As a result, they’re relatively commonplace in healthcare settings.

Nurses wash their hands frequently, which can cause dryness, cracking, and bleeding.

As a result, nurses often apply hand creams to ensure proper moisture and avoid unwanted skin issues from dry hands.

Furthermore, hand creams provide valuable nutrients to the skin, which is extremely important for skin care.

With that said, there are several factors nurses need to keep in mind when using hand creams.

First, most workplaces prefer scentless hand creams. It is because nurses and patients can be sensitive to certain odors.

Therefore, scentless hand creams allow for a better experience for everyone.

Secondly, consider the hand cream’s moisturization and oiliness before using it.

Hand creams that are too oily can leave a residue and even create a hazard if your fingers are slippery.

On the other hand, low-quality hand creams can contribute to your hands feeling dry and uncomfortable.

Finally, make sure the hand cream uses high-quality ingredients to protect your skin from damage.

Over time the high-quality ingredients will significantly impact your hand health and reduce skin cracks, wrinkles, and damage.

It is essential because skin damage, cracks, and cuts create opportunities for bacteria and harmful infections.

Bottom Line

Using nail polish is perfectly acceptable in work settings that allow essential nail products.

However, nail polish rules can vary dramatically depending on who the nurse works for and their department.

Furthermore, state and government guidelines on nail polish and hand hygiene can impact the products nurses can use.

For nurses unsure whether they can use nail products, contact your health department or ask human resources.

Nurses may be required to follow specific hand-hygiene protocols, such as trimming their nails and avoiding certain polishes.

It is especially true regarding nail accessories and working in high-risk departments.

Nurses must always follow their company/school policies and dress code guidelines.

It will ensure that they comply with the rules and do not get in trouble with their supervisor.

Other Interesting Articles:

  • Can nurses have tattoos or piercings?
  • Can nurses use CBD oil?
  • Can nurses wear crocs at the hospital?

— Update: 12-02-2023 — found an additional article Can Nurses Have Long Nails and Wear Nail Polish? from the website for the keyword can nurses have gel nails.

If one of your favorite self-care routines is getting your nails done, that may have to change once you get into nursing school or become a nurse.

Certain types of manicures are forbidden in all health care institutions while other types depend on organizational policies.

*Disclosure: This article on can nurses have nails and wear nail polish may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. Check the laws in your jurisdiction and the rules of your facility before following anything mentioned. For more info, please see my disclaimer.

Can Nurses Have Nails and Wear Nail Polish?

For hygienic and safety purposes many types of manicures, including natural long nails, acrylic nails, and gel nails, are not allowed by health care organizations across the country. Some hospitals and clinics do allow nurses to wear regular nail polish as long as it’s chip-free.

Are There Rules About Nail Length, Polish and Acrylic Nails for Nurses?

Health organizations in the United States do not allow nurses and many other health care workers to have long fingernails or to wear gel nail polish or acrylic nails.

In fact, many of these rules are well-supported by years of research and are also recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

However, there is one rule that is not followed across the board. Many health care organizations do allow their nurses to wear regular nail polish or even shellac nail polish as long as it is not chipped.

Read more  How Long Should You Wait to Get Your Nails Filled?

It’s important that you check your organization’s policies and procedures manual to determine which rules apply to you.

In my organization, chip-free nail polish was allowed. Unfortunately, I saw that some nurses did not abide by these rules and did not always remove their nail polish when it began chipping around the edges.

It’s difficult for managers to police the nail hygiene of every nurse. This is why it’s vital that you allow your own moral compass and sense of duty to your patients to guide you as you make personal decisions in these and similar areas.

How Do Job Duties Affect These Rules?

The majority of these rules are put into place for nurses who come into contact with patients.

However, if you work as a nurse in an office environment, such as in a clinical nurse management role, you may find that the rules are different for you and that you have more leeway in the length of your nails and the type of polish you can use.

The Reasons Behind the Rules

These fingernail rules were not put into place simply to make your life miserable.

In fact, like many nurses, there were times that I wanted to get my nails done, but I could not because I was scheduled for an upcoming shift.

Keep in mind the key reasons for these rules are to keep your nails as hygienic as possible and to decrease the chance of hospital-acquired infections in the patients for whom you care.

Plus, clean, short, well-kept nails simply look more professional than chipped or long acrylic nails do.

What the Research Shows

These reasons are also strongly backed by science.

The CDC recommends that nail length be no more than a quarter of an inch and that artificial nails never be worn in high-risk environments, such as the operating room or intensive care unit.

Research has shown that approximately 70% of hospital-acquired infections could be easily preventable and that improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps that can be taken.

In a 2018 study of gel nails worn by nurses, the most troubling thing found was that these nails were quite difficult to clean with hand sanitizer, which is frequently used by busy nurses.

There have been several reviews of existing literature also undertaken on this topic. In one review published in 2020, researchers determined that while nail length was more important in the control of infection than nail type was, most acrylic nails are longer than two millimeters, effectively banning them.

Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions

Now that we have gotten through the nitty-gritty of the question of nails in nursing, you may still want clear answers to your most pressing questions.

After all, you probably don’t want to remove your fresh manicure if you do not have to.

While you should certainly check with your organization’s policies and procedures manual, which could differ from the general guidelines listed below, here are some basic rules that are common in a lot of health care centers today.

1. How Long Should a Nurse’s Nails Be?

My nursing school had a rule that my fingernails had to be kept so short that I could not see them if I was looking at my hand from the palm side.

Thankfully, rules for licensed nurses are not usually this strict, but you should keep your nails to a moderate length to reduce the number of germs living on the underside of your nails.

Generally, a quarter of an inch is the longest you should go.

2. Can Nurses Wear Nail Polish?

Your health care facility may allow you to wear nail polish. If so, be sure you remove it as soon as it becomes chipped. You may want to apply a long-lasting clear coat over your polish color to keep it chip-free as long as possible.

3. Can Nurses Have Acrylic or Gel Nails?

Both acrylic and gel nails are generally frowned upon by health care facilities as they’re often long and are typically quite difficult to clean around, especially with hand sanitizer. If you absolutely love acrylic nails, save them for your vacations when you’ll have a longer period away from work.

4.What About Wearing Gloves?

One thing that I have wondered about and that may raise a question in your mind is the ability of gloves to protect against patient infection if you do have longer nails or wear acrylics.

Unfortunately, any germs that are on your fingernails as you put on these gloves can get onto the outside of the latex and still be transferred to the patient.

5. Can Nurses Wear Shellac Nail Polish?

Because of the way shellac nail polish is made depending on your jurisdiction and your facility policy nurses are allowed to wear shellac nail polish.

Keeping Your Nails Looking Their Best As a Nurse

Although you may miss your brightly colored nails or your one-of-a-kind nail art when you first start out in nursing, you will quickly find that there are still plenty of ways to keep your nails looking their best.

Consider applying nail oil, such as this jojoba-infused option or this milk and honey cuticle oil, to keep your nails shiny and strong and to prevent your cuticles from peeling.

In addition, invest in a nail buffer, such as this one, to amp up the shine of your nails.

Check out this video below for more tips for healthy and natural nail care.

Final Thoughts

While it may feel difficult to go without your favorite acrylic nails or gel polishes, you can still enjoy manicures on vacation and can feel good about giving your fingernails the break from polish that they deserve.

Comment below with your experiences in nail hygiene as a nurse.

Related Articles

  • Can Nurses Wear Any Makeup?
  • Is Wear Ear Piercings Okay as a Nurse?
  • Are Nurses Allowed to Wear Jewelry?


Recommended For You

About the Author: Tung Chi