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Why can’t I wear nail polish during plastic surgery?

So you’ve booked your plastic surgery procedure, you’re reading your pre-op instructions carefully, and you notice that you’ve been asked not to wear nail polish during surgery. If you’re committed to perfectly polished tips, you may have some questions—is it really necessary to remove my nail polish? Do I need to remove my acrylics or gel nail polish too? What about toenail polish? We’re here to answer all your questions. 

Why did my surgeon ask me to remove nail polish before surgery?

During surgery, we use a device called a pulse oximeter that is clipped onto your fingertip to monitor the oxygen levels in your blood. 

Oximeters work by sending light through your finger and analyzing the amount that passes through. Nail polish interferes with the probe’s ability to do its job and keep you safe.

Why do my oxygen levels need to be monitored during surgery?

At FORM’s Toronto surgical facilities, our top priority is keeping you safe and healthy throughout your procedure, and we do so by monitoring you in a variety of ways. Hypoxemia, or blood oxygen levels that have dipped below normal, can be an indicator that you are experiencing problems related to breathing or circulation. Hypoxemia can lead to cyanosis, a blueish tinge to your tissues, and the nail beds are one of the best places to detect cyanosis. The presence of nail polish or other types of manicures can both conceal cyanosis and prevent the pulse oximeter from detecting hypoxemia as soon as it may occur. 

Does a pulse oximeter hurt?

Don’t worry—you won’t feel a thing. The probe slides onto your finger or is taped onto your fingernail.

Do I need to remove my acrylic nails or gel nail polish before my surgery?

Yes, acrylic nails and gel nail polish need to be removed too. If you’re trying to protect a recent manicure, you are welcome to remove only the acrylics or polish from your two index (pointer) fingers—this is where we most commonly clip the oximeter probes.

Can I wear toenail polish during surgery?

Yes—for surgeries performed at FORM, toenail polish is fine to leave on. If you are a patient at a different surgical centre, check with your surgeon beforehand for the pre-op instructions that are relevant to your procedure.

How soon before surgery do I need to remove nail polish?

Generally, it’s fine to wait to remove your nail polish up until the day before surgery. However, if you skipped the base coat during application and a dark or richly pigmented nail colour was used, it may be best to remove it a few days in advance so that any staining will have faded by the time your surgery date arrives.

What if I forget to remove my nail polish before my surgery?

If you forget to remove your nail polish, let your surgical team know when you arrive at the hospital and we may be able to remove it for you. Acrylic and gel nails can be more difficult to remove without specialized tools. In some cases, we can attach pulse oximeters to the earlobes instead, although fingertips are the preferred and most accurate option.

We hope this FAQ has alleviated all your nail polish concerns and shed some light on why we include this step in your pre-operative care. If you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out at info@formfacebody or leave a comment below.


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