Long fingernails loved by Cardi B may harbor bacteria and fungi

Long fingernails loved by singers including Cardi B and Billie Eilish could be harboring 32 species of bacteria and 28 types of fungi, scientist warns – and some may be resistant to antibiotics

  • Biology professor at American University, D.C. warns they have micro-organisms
  • He said long nails can carry 32 different bacteria and 28 different fungi species
  • Nail technicians said clients with long nails were more likely to keep them clean
  • They suggested this slashed the chance of them carrying bacteria and germs

Trendy long fingernails popularized by celebrities like Cardi B and Billy Eilish, could harbor dozens of species of bacteria and fungi, a biologist warns. 

Dr Jeffrey Kaplan, a biologist from American University in Washington D.C., says they provide plenty of space for ‘micro-organisms to adhere to’.

Everyone has bacteria and fungi on their nails, which they pick up daily through touching objects such as ticket and card machines. They are almost always harmless, but when infections do occur swelling, pain and a thickening of the nail may be triggered.

Studies have found antibiotic-resistant Steph aureus — a common cause of skin infections — nestled beneath longer nails.


Cardi B (left) is a fan of long nails. She is pictured above last week in The Bronx, New York. Singer-songwriter Billie Eilish was also a fan of long nails, shown above with them at the 40th Brit awards in February 2020

Fingernails should be regularly trimmed and cleaned to stop them harboring dirt and germs, experts say.

The CDC says the below can prevent micro-organisms building-up on nails:

  • Keeping nails short and trimming them often;
  • Scrubbing the undersides of nails with soap and water;
  • Cleaning any nail grooming tools before use;
  • Avoiding biting or chewing nails;
  • Avoiding cutting cuticles, as they act as a barrier against infection;
  • Never ripping or biting a hanging nail, but clipping it off carefully;
  • Nail salons should ensure equipment is sterilized before use. 

Source: CDC 

‘Studies have found 32 different bacteria and 28 different fungi underneath fingernails,’ Kaplan told USA Today. 

Kaplan said long artificial, natural, gel and acrylic nails all pose a risk of picking up extra bacteria and fungi.

‘There’s always bacteria under the fingernail and you can’t get rid of it,’ he warned.

‘You can transmit fingernail bacteria to your system by scratching, nail-biting, nose-picking and finger-sucking.’ 

The build-up may trigger an infection, which in severe cases could lead to nails being disfigured.

Kayla Newman, a nail technician in South Carolina, disagreed with the professor saying people with long nails were less likely to have germs beneath them.

‘Generally, people who have long nails know how to maneuver with them and keep them clean,’ Newman said.

‘If you’re spending upwards of $60 to get your nails done and you don’t keep them clean, that doesn’t make sense.’

It was not clear how many species of bacteria and fungi Americans have underneath their nails on average.

But a study from 2020 found more than a hundred types of fungus living on people’s feet, including beneath their nails.

Only this week Cardi B posted a photo of herself in The Bronx, New York, with long bright-blue nails.

When she got her nails cut shorter in 2020, she wrote online: ‘Short till my nails get some strength. I hate short nails but @nailson7th said this will do.’

Billie Eilish has also regularly being pictured with long nails, writing under an image of them in 2019 ‘ok, now it’s REALLY enough with the nails.’

The CDC recommends keeping nails short to stop them harboring dirt and germs which could ‘contribute to the spread of infection’.

They add that all nail grooming equipment should be sterilized before and after use.

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