Other than our faces, few features are more noticeable than our hands, whether in a good way or not. They help us express ourselves. They give direction. They comfort. And, they can ruin a well-groomed, put-together look if neglected. With some simple tips and no nonsense daily care, even dry, damaged and split fingernails can be treated and restored so they can grow longer, stronger and healthier.
Simple Fingernail DOs and DON’Ts
• Do wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when washing dishes, cleaning or using harsh chemicals.
• Do apply moisturizer to hands and nails after washing and bathing. For a natural solution to moisturized nails, try soaking them in extra virgin olive oil 10 – 15 minutes a day.
• Do massage your nails with moisturizer to stimulate blood flow in the area helping them grow longer and stronger.
• Do trim and file nails regularly using sharp manicure scissors or clippers.
• Do trim nails straight across and then gently file nail tips into a gentle curve.
• Do eat biotin-rich foods. Biotin, a member of the vitamin B family, may increase nail thickness and helps to prevent spitting and breaking.
• Do stay hydrated. Drinking the recommended 8 – 8 ounce glasses of water each day can help prevent dry damaged nails, just as it helps skin, hair and general health.
• Don’t cut or manipulate cuticles. The cuticle is a natural barrier to fungus and bacteria.
• Don’t use rough emery boards. Old-fashioned orange emery boards are too harsh and can lead to nail breaks and tears. (Use a smooth, fine file instead.)
• Don’t use nail hardeners or use them sparingly. There is no scientific evidence they actually work.
• Don’t bite your fingernails, pick at cuticles or pull off hangnails.
• Don’t abuse your nails by using them to poke, pick or pry things.
• Don’t use nail polish remover more than once or twice a month and avoid products that contain acetone.
• Don’t ignore persistent problems. Changes in nail color, shape (such as curled nails), separation of the nail from the surrounding skin, bleeding around the nails or redness, swelling and pain can signal more serious conditions. See your primary care physician or dermatologist for an evaluation.
Toenail DOs and DON’Ts
Do trim toenails regularly. Keeping them short will minimize the risk of trauma and injury.
Do soak your feet in warm salt water when toenails are thick and difficult to cut. Mix one teaspoon of salt per pint of water and soak for 5 to 10 minutes.
Do wear shoes that fit properly. Also alternate which pair of shoes you wear each day.
Do wear flip flops at the pool and in public showers to reduce the risk of infections caused by a fungus that can get in your toenails.
Don’t “dig out” ingrown toenails, especially if they are infected and sore. If you are suffering from an ingrown toenail, see a dermatologist for treatment.
A note about salon manicures and pedicures
If you count on salon manicures or pedicures for healthy looking nails, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, only use salons that display a current state license, and insist on a nail technician who is licensed by the state board. Never have your cuticles removed – it can lead to a serious nail infection. Always make sure your nail technician properly sterilizes all tools used during your procedure. Infections can spread through the use of unsterilized tools. Footbaths should be cleaned between clients with a bleach solution and the filters cleaned regularly.