Dos and Don’ts for Healthy Nails
Take a close look at your fingernails. Are they in tiptop shape? Are they strong and healthy looking or can you see dents or areas of unusual colour? Most of the time, nail problems can be avoided with the right personal care, however sometimes the condition of your nails can reflect a problem in your overall health.
Below are our top 4 dos and top 4 don’ts when it comes to looking after your nails and what changes to look out for in your nail health.
Do moisturise your nails and nail beds. Moisturiser will make your cuticles look better and help protect nails from breaking due to a lack of hydration. Putting an oil or hand lotion around the cuticle helps moisturise the entire nail, which will reduce the incidence of chipping, cracking, and splitting.
Do ask your doctor about biotin. A member of the vitamin B family, research suggests that biotin helps to strengthen weak or brittle fingernails by increasing nail thickness – preventing splitting and breaking.
Do practice good nail hygiene. Use sharp, clean manicure scissors or clippers. Trim your nails straight across then round the tips in a gentle curve.
Do keep your fingernails dry and clean. This prevents bacteria from growing under your fingernails. Repeated or prolonged contact with water can contribute to split nails. Wear gloves when washing dishes, cleaning or using harsh chemicals.
Don’t cut, bite or pick at your cuticles. Whether you have your nails professionally groomed or do them yourself, leave your cuticles alone. The cuticle is the natural barrier to fungus and bacteria and manipulating them can lead to infection and damage to the nail bed. While cutting cuticles holds the most potential for harm, pushing them back can cause problems as well.
Don’t use acetone-based polish removers. Acetone strips nails causing them to become brittle. When using nail polish remover, opt for an acetone-free formula.
Don’t use rough emery boards. Old-fashioned emery boards are too harsh for nails, causing small fissures and cracks that lead to breakage and tears. Instead file nails with a smooth, fine file and file slowly and evenly in one direction only to reduce risk of breakage.
Don’t have regular professional manicures. While it’s hard to beat the pampering luxury of a pedicure or manicure, studies have shown those who indulge regularly are more likely to suffer from dry, brittle nails – probably due to exposure to more chemicals and harsher ingredients. Women who get manicures frequently suffer from nail bed infections. When you look at your finger sideways the area around your nail bed should be flat. If it’s puffy or red, that’s evidence of infection.
Experts say that one way to reduce problems, is to take your own tools to the manicure. This will cut down on the risk of infections and help ensure a healthier experience.
Keep an eye out for changes in your nails
Healthy fingernails are smooth, uniform in colour and consistency and free of spots or discoloration.
Sometimes fingernails develop harmless vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Vertical ridges tend to become more prominent with age. Fingernails can also develop white lines or spots due to injury, but these eventually grow out with the nail.
Not all nail conditions are normal, however. Consult your doctor or dermatologist if you notice:
- Changes in nail colour, such as discoloration of the entire nail or a dark streak under the nail
- Changes in nail shape, such as curled nails
- Thinning or thickening of the nails
- Separation of the nail from the surrounding skin
- Bleeding around the nails
- Swelling or pain around the nails