Today, let’s talk about something close to our hearts (and our tips!)—our nails. Specifically, we’re addressing a common yet often misunderstood condition called Onycholysis. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but simply put, it’s when the nail separates from the skin beneath it.

What Is Onycholysis?

Imagine your nail as a protective shield. Onycholysis is like a little space developing between this shield and its fortress, the nail bed. This gap can collect debris and sometimes lead to infection, which is why understanding it is key.

Why Does Onycholysis Happen?

There could be several culprits behind this nail mystery:

  • Injuries to the nail bed, so those knocks that you never thought anything of, or the trapping of your pinky in the door for example.
  • Trauma to your nail bed, so over use of gel products or chemicals on your nail plate.
  • Reactions to household cleaners or nail products, including our beloved gel polishes
  • Nail fungus—less charming, but very fixable and generally more common in the toenails.
  • Skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema
  • Reactions to medications or chemicals
  • Repetitive tapping or drumming – so those super heavy typists out there
  • Health conditions such as a severe yeast infection, thyroid disease, Alopecia, Lichen Planus or vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

The takeaway here is that Onycholysis isn’t picky—it can happen to anyone. However, it’s seen more often in our lovely ladies and during pregnancy. Those with certain medical conditions or on specific medications are also more prone to it.

Is it always Fungal?

The only way to determine if a fungal infection is present, is for a medical professional to send clippings off for testing. A fungal nail infection cannot be seen with just the eye as there are more nail conditions and skin conditions like nail psoriasis, that look the same.

If Onycholysis goes undiagnosed or unseen due to having gel colour on your nails for long periods of time, the gap between your nail plate and the nail bed can gather dirt and debris. This little gap can be the perfect place for fungi to get trapped and grow.

Generally speaking, the nail would look yellow or greenish and tends to thicken. Fungal infections can feel uncomfortable or painful as well, whereas Onycholysis alone doesn’t tend to have any discomfort associated with it.

Symptoms to Spot

Keep an eye on your nails. If they start to lift away from the nail bed and change colour, it’s time to take notice. The colours can vary, and really helps to determine the diagnosis, but the most important thing is that it’s generally painless.

Treating Onycholysis

The journey to resolution starts with identifying the cause. Once we know the “why,” we can tackle the “how” to fix it. And while nails will regrow and replace the old, detached ones, it’s essential to manage the condition in the meantime.

  • The condition does go away; however, the nail will need to be left to grow out on its own. While it’s important to keep your nails short, aggressive clipping is not recommended. As the affected portion of the nail grows out, you will be able to clip off the lifted nail as the new nail comes in.
  • Nails should be kept short, clean, and dry and no artificial nail product or nail coating that needs to cure should be applied.
  • This condition can last for several months, because a fingernail or toenail won’t reattach to its nail bed. Once a new nail grows to replace the old one, symptoms should resolve.
  • Fingernails take 4 to 6 months to fully regrow, and toenails can take 8 to 12 months.
  • Oil – Using a good quality nail & skin oil under the free edge will cause the bed epithelium (non-living tissue that keeps the nail plate attached to the nail bed) to become elastic again and stop the space being a good place for infections to start
  • Keep an eye on the nail, if the colour changes refer to a health professional, it could be the start of a bacterial infection (this is the reason not to put a coloured nail polish on the nail, the sooner you spot an infection the faster it can be dealt with).
  • Try to live without nail polish until the nail plate is reattached to the nail bed.

Is Onycholysis caused by Gel Polish or Builder Gels?

There are so many contributing factors to this really common nail condition, and our priority will always be to help determine what that cause is for you.

As with any chemicals that are applied to the skin, nail or hair – they are chemicals and we need to give them the respect they deserve.

Onycholysis can be caused by a reaction to nail products or even the LED lamps, and it’s not always particular ingredients such as HEMA that has had a really bad rap recently. It could be that they have been on too long, or that your nails aren’t strong enough to take the weight of the gel extension or overlay for example.

But like all reactions or medical conditions – it’s not a one size fits all unfortunately, hence why we suggest you follow the recommendations in this article to really help us all get to the bottom of it and ensure it isn’t any underlying health conditions as a priority.

When to see a medical professional

Always get it checked out with a medical professional. This can help diagnose any health conditions that could be present, or of course let you know if you have a fungal infection which can be very easily treated.

Nails tend to be a barometer of your overall health. If your nails look unhealthy or have problems like onycholysis, this could be the first visible sign that something deeper is going on in your body.

Mooeys’ Approach to Nail Health

At Mooeys, while we are not medical professionals, we prioritise your nail health and recommend seeking medical advice for persistent nail concerns. We encourage responsible use of gel nail products and recommend regular assessment of your natural nails’ condition.

We believe in the magic of maintenance. We’re all for enjoying our strong, durable gel products, but we also stand for respecting the health of our natural nails. It’s a bit like hair care—you wouldn’t over-bleach your tresses, right?

That’s why after three infill treatments, we always want to carry out a removal to assess the health of your natural nail. It’s not just about beauty—it’s about care, longevity, and ensuring your nails are as happy as you are after a visit with us.

If you want to understand it in even more detail, Amy explains it in a video HERE

You can book an appointment with us HERE.

Reference Guide:

https://www.healthline.com/

https://skinsight.com/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/