Can Waitresses Have Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails are a fun and creative way to accessorize and express yourself. However, when working a job that requires being extremely hands on, such as waitressing, are acrylic nails allowed?

According to the FDA Food Code, food employees may wear artificial nails only if they also wear clean gloves. However, it is considered best practice to forgo acrylic nails. Individual restaurants may have their own specific policies about nails as well.

It is a bummer t o have to restrict personal style for the sake of work, but there are a few reasons as to why these rules are in place. Read on to find out why restaurants do not allow acrylic nails, if restaurants allow other nail styles, and the hygiene concerns surrounding acrylic nails.

Why Do Some Restaurants Not Allow Their Staff to have Acrylic Nails?

Whether or not waitresses are allowed to wear acrylic nails will vary from restaurant to restaurant. Generally speaking, most restaurants will ask their staff to make sure their hands and nails are clean and acrylic nails can make this level of cleanliness harder to achieve.

The biggest reason restaurants may not allow waitresses to have acrylic nails is hygiene. Part of the reason is that dirt and bacteria collects under longer nails very easily. Even if you are only serving food, you still want your hands to be as clean as possible.

A larger issue restaurants have with acrylic nails has to do with the nails themselves. Some acrylic nails have epoxy, while others might be decorated with rhinestones. The decorations and polish can chip off and potentially land in someone’s food.

Depending on the restaurant, you may be allowed to wear acrylic nails as long as you also wear gloves. However, this can be quite tedious, as you will have to change gloves often to ensure they remain clean. Most restaurants consider it best to avoid wearing artificial nails altogether.

What About Other Nail Styles?

Unfortunately, the same rules apply to other nail styles as well. Concerns about hygiene and food contamination are still an issue even for shorter artificial nails or nails that only have nail polish on them.

The rules about wearing gloves apply as well. Different nail styles may be allowed at certain restaurants but you may be required to wear gloves over them to avoid your nails or polish from chipping and falling into the food.

Some restaurants may be more willing to make an exception for shorter nail styles. If you have smaller artificial nails, such as a gel manicure, you can always ask your manager or boss for the specific rules at your job.

Even if Your Restaurant Allows Acrylic Nails, Is It Worth It?

The restaurant you work at may not have any restrictions regarding acrylic nails, but there are still some reasons for you to consider foregoing acrylics while working. Again, the biggest reason is hygiene.

When acrylic nails are applied, your natural nails have to be filed down, which makes them thinner and weaker. This could make your nails prone to chipping or breaking off entirely, which can be quite painful. Once one acrylic nail breaks, the rest will usually be cut short as well to match. Considering how expensive acrylic nails can be, it may not be worth the risk.

Even if your acrylic nails do not suffer a break, it is still possible for them to chip off into food. Any decorations on the nails themselves may also fall off into food. They can also fall onto the floor, which might make people think the restaurant is messy or unsanitary.

The application and removal processes of acrylic nails also poses some issues. Products used in applying acrylic nails may contain chemicals that can irritate the skin around your nails. When removing acrylic nails, the nails need to be soaked in acetone or filed off, which can leave your nails thin and brittle.

Lastly, you may find it annoying to maintain and clean your acrylic nails. Dirt and bacteria can easily build up under the nails. Additionally, acrylic nails can make it awkward to handles dishes and silverware. Even if hygiene is not a concern, they could just get in the way.

Acrylic Nails and Hygiene: How Clean Is It?

Cleanliness is the biggest reason restaurants will not allow their waitresses to have acrylic nails, but are acrylic nails really that unhygienic? Other than dirt and food potentially getting caught under your acrylic nails, there are also microorganisms that can adhere to your nails.

A microorganism is a microscopic organism, such as bacteria, a fungus, or a virus. The longer your nails are, the more surface area there is for microorganisms to attach to. Having longer nails, like acrylic nails, can make it more difficult to wash these microorganisms off.

Sometimes when acrylic nails are damaged, a gap can form between your natural nail and the artificial nail. This space provides an ideal environment for microorganisms to live and can leave you prone to infections.

Hygiene and Other Nail Styles

Other nail styles, such as gel nails or just nail polish, will also increase the probability of microorganisms living under your nails. However, it is easier to maintain hand hygiene with short, natural nails with just nail polish than it is with artificial nails.

Depending on the rules at your workplace, you may be allowed to wear clear polish or a translucent finish on the nails, which will at least allow you to see when dirt is stuck under your nails. Additionally, if you are just wearing nail polish, it is easier to remove and will not make your nails as brittle as acrylics would.


Most restaurants will not allow acrylic nails due to hygiene concerns. Specific rules will vary, but even if acrylic nails are allowed, it may not be worth it due to how difficult it is to keep them clean and the possibility of infection. Regardless of what your favorite nail style is, just be sure to ask your manager what the specific rules are at your workplace.