All images are not mine and were taken from Google images.
First, a disclaimer: as a licensed nail tech, I truly believe that any type of artificial nail can be worn without damage or infection if done correctly. I’ve worn nails for over 20 years and neither I nor any of my clients EVER had the issues I am going to describe below. TLDR at the very bottom
OK. The first drawback is the lack of education in the nail industry. You are more likely to find a poorly trained (or even untrained and unlicensed) nail tech than you are going to find one that is well-trained and knowledgeable about the science of nails. Even nail techs who are licensed are only trained in the basics, so you need to look for one who is not only licensed (in the US, other countries may not have licensure) BUT also has a lot of continuing education under their belt Just having a license is not enough.
Untrained/under-trained nail techs often do not understand the chemistry of nails. They don’t understand (or care) that mixing product brands and being sloppy with application (liquid all over the skin) can lead to overexposure and can cause allergic reactions or dermatitis in their clients. Once a client becomes allergic to products, they can never again wear artificial nails because almost all of the various products we use are chemically related. (Some are chemically different, but who wants to go through this every time they try a new product just to see if it doesn't happen again?)
Damaged natural nails. Nail damage is not inevitable when wearing artificial nails. Acrylic itself does not damage the natural nail. Improper application and removal damages natural nails. And untrained/under-trained nail techs are almost always just following procedures that were taught to them by other untrained/under-trained nail techs. When applying acrylic nails, the tech only needs to use a very fine file to gently break up the blocks of oil n the nail There is zero need to shred or etch the natural nail with today’s advanced acrylic products. But an untrained tech doesn't know that so they use a coarse file or an electric file with a coarse sanding band to remove layers of the natural nail (makes me cringe to think about).
Then when they file the top of the acrylic nail or do a fill, they are improperly using an electric file again at the wrong angle and they cut into the the natural nail causing “rings of fire”which you can see through the acrylic in this pic:
And then when nails are removed, they are either picked or pried off, which brings layers of the natural nail with it:
Bad removal vs good removal: (not my image, got it off the internet :))
MMA. This is a post unto itself, so I will try to be brief. MMA is an illegal (the FDA says it is hazardous and deleterious when used on nails) acrylic nail liquid that is still used in cheap nail salons because it is so cheap. It doesn't stick well and REQUIRES rough etching of the natural nail (thinning and damaging it) to get the product to adhere. But once adhered, it is overly hard and attaches too rigidly to the natural nail - meaning if you break a nail, instead of the acrylic breaking, it tears your natural nail off the nail bed. It is also extremely hard to remove and so most salons who use it will pry the acrylic off the natural nail, further damaging it MMA is the reason the myth that acrylic nails damage the natural nails still exists. (Gross pics follow)
Unsanitary salons: Fungus is not something that is destined to happen with acrylic nails, but it can happen if the salon you frequent is unsanitary. So can other infections such as mycobacteria , pseudomonas, and even Hepatitis.
So yes, there are risks with wearing artificial nails if you go to a nail tech who is poorly trained (and sadly, its something like 80% of nail techs that fall into this category)