Green Nail Syndrome - What is GNS? How to treat and prevent?

If you are reading this your natural nails are probably discolored in places with tiny spots of blueish-greenish hues. In this blog post, you will learn what it is, what causes it, and how to ensure this will not happen again in the future.

This is not medical advice. We are not doctors. Always seek medical help from professionals first. This content is synthesized from different sources - to save you time and headaches understanding this infection and preventing it from happening in the future. Let's dive in.

What is this so-called Green Nail Syndrome exactly?

Green nail syndrome is caused by bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. You will spot the infection easily on the plate of your nail. When the bacteria grows it produces greenish pigments called pyocyanin and pyoverdin that vary from blue-green, to green-brown, or green-yellow. The condition is not painful and usually, it affects only one or two nails.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria flourishes in wet environments - showers, sinks, bath sponges, and even your lens solutions. When it comes to fake nails - there are two main culprits that can be the root of the infection.

1. The bacteria is already present on your nail and you simply haven't managed to fully remove it during prep.

2. The nails were not fitted perfectly which allowed the water together with dirt and the bacteria to penetrate between your natural and false nails.

Do the 'greenies' go away?

Although it is fairly easy to stop the further spread of infection - it will not disappear magically. The first step to restoring nail health is to remove the artificial nail and disinfect the natural nail to kill the pseudomonas bacteria.  

After removing the false nails, cut back the infected nails as much as possible. Clean the plate thoroughly by buffing the surface, removing product residue. Once the product is removed, de-hydrate the nail plate by using rubbing alcohol. This will kill the bacteria and remove all unwanted oils and moisture. Your natural nails should look a little matte and feel dry after you finish.

Your natural nails are porous like a sponge and absorb 1000x more water than your skin. To stop the infection, keep your nails clean and dry at all times. Avoid soaking the nail and wear gloves when doing chores or work that involves prolonged contact with water. 

Unfortunately, you will need to wait for greenies to grow out - and frankly speaking - that can take several weeks. If untreated it may produce chronic paronychia, an inflammatory disorder of the nail folds presenting as redness, tenderness, and swelling. 

Is there a home remedy to green nails? 

Doctor Warren R. Heymann, MD suggests suppressing the bacterial growth by soaking the infected nail in diluted sodium hypochlorite (bleach) solution or diluted acetic acid (vinegar) soaks. 

1. Keep your nail dry and clean at all times
2. Soak the affected area in vinegar two times per day for a couple of minutes
3. Clean the nail surface with rubbing alcohol
4. As the infected nail grows, trim back the infected part

Soak your nails as long as you don't notice the infection is growing out. If the infection is growing out - you can stop with the soaks. Please also note that hot humid climates may require longer treatment than cold dry climates. 

Make sure to see a doctor and follow their directions before you do anything else.

Can I paint over my green nails?

We get it it's embarrassing, and you really want to hide them. We have good news - as long as you do proper prep - cleaning the nail plate thoroughly - it is ok to paint them without worry or safety concern. It is also not uncommon to put on a fresh set of artificial nails.

How to avoid the green nails next time?

Let's not fear nail extensions. Artificial nails are not the source of the infection. As long as there is a proper prep in place your natural nails should be just fine.

You can prevent this infection by following a few simple rules.

Be careful, the bacterial can be present on your nails, skin, and even your kitchen table. A simple scratch on the face during the manicure process can transmit the infection. Make sure your tools, table, and hands are clean and disinfected at all times. Dispose of old nail files and disinfect tools.

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, dry and disinfect
  • Ensure your work area and tools are disinfected
  • Treat your nails and cuticles with rubbing alcohol before applying artificial nails
  • Ensure a correct fit of the false over your nail plate - the artificial nail should not overlay cuticles
  • Avoid exposure of your artificial nails to water for at least two hours after application. Keep your hands dry and avoid long-term water exposure.

How to apply press-on nails to avoid Green Nails Syndrome?

Choosing the correct size press-on nail is key. You don't want the nail to be too big to be glued over your cuticles. If in between sizes always choose the smaller size. This way the nails should adhere perfectly. Follow the application instructions meticulously and never skip prep! Be generous with the glue to avoid air bubbles between natural and press-on nails. You can find detailed step-by-step application tutorials with a clear prep guide here.

It is also important to always choose a brand that provides a full application kit - including a nail file, cuticle stick, and alcohol pad or make sure you are using clean tools and have plenty of rubbing alcohol and clean cotton pads. Some brands (like ours) design nails with half-sizes to ensure the perfect fit.

What is the verdict with reusable press-on Nails?

If you opt-in to reuse nails, we always recommend using adhesive tabs. With adhesive tabs, you can reuse the nails up to 5 times. Adhesive tabs last up to 48 hours - and pop off naturally if soaked preventing the infection in the first place.

If you reuse the nails with glue, be patient and invest time into cleansing. Make sure you remove the old glue from the back of the nails with help of a nail file and thoroughly disinfect the false nail as well as your natural nails. Repeat the application process for the desired length of wear. 

Disclaimer: We are not medical doctors. The information presented is not medical advice. It is purely to share our experiences and opinions based on the linked research. As always, check with a doctor for any medical conditions. We disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.