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Can surgeons wear nail polish?

Billions of women have decorated nails. This practice can express beauty, cover blemishes, and make the nails more attractive. Some nail polish also comes with nutrients that make the skin are healthier.

But in the surgical field, nail polish stirs up controversy and debate. Female surgeons, since their medical training, are discouraged from stylizing their nails.

Posts on forums and blogs about this issue show much discontent from both sides—those who insist on wearing clear nail polish and those who want this banned from surgeons’ nails.

Can surgeons wear nail polish? Guidelines offer conflicting rules on wearing nail polish in the operating room. But it depends ultimately on the national policies and the hospitals.

In the United States, surgeons in some hospitals and states can wear nail polish as long as it is not chipped or deteriorating.

But in Britain and Australia, the government mandates physicians and surgeons to be bare below the elbows. In this principle, medical professionals must remove all risks of infections there, including nail polish and jewellery. Similarly, surgeons are unallowed to have long nails.

Why are surgeons discouraged from having long and polished nails?

Healthcare workers, including surgeons, receive recommendations and policies regarding their nails. Hospitals are inclined to prohibit artificial nails and nail polish because health guidelines and research discourage them.

Research in the American Journal of Infection Control shows that acrylic nail polish can be a haven for harmful bacteria, making surgeons’ hands more infectious and unsanitary. Even if surgeons clean their hands with soap, water, and alcohol, their nails can sabotage them.

Gel-based nail polish appears to be a suitable replacement for traditional ones. But despite being longer-lasting and more durable, gel polish receives the same backlash in the medical community.

What are the notable guidelines about nail polish?

The Association of Operating Room Nurses and The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology assert their stand against gel polish during surgical operations.

These respected organizations say that nail polish may promote bacterial growth, as indicated by some studies. They can also infect patients with fungi and chemicals that stick to the polish and the extended nails.

The World Health Organization strongly discourages nail extensions and artificial nails. In its statement, the organization says that microorganisms may stay alive there even after handwash or hand rub with alcohol.

Likewise, the US Centers for Disease Control, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America maintain that artificial nails with polish may be harmful.

These organizations are somewhat lenient on gel-based polish, however. Based on their guidelines, surgeons may wear them outside the operating room. Hence, female surgeons should remove the polish before entering extensive surgeries and high-risk areas.

The other nail-related rules that surgeons follow

If the hospital allows surgeons to wear clear nail polish, they must not chip or deteriorate long enough. Research shows that these bits of polish can lodge into the wound and transmit bacteria.

Also, surgeons must not wear nail tapes, overlays, and wraps. Instead, the tip of their fingernails should be shorter than two millimetres.

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