An important aspect of a well-groomed appearance is your finger nails. Strong healthy nails not only look good, they can also be an indicator of your overall health. If you have your nails professionally manicured, you are somewhat at the mercy of the nail salon when it comes to advice on nail care, especially if you wear extensions. But regardless of whether you opt for ‘true’ or ‘false’, you need to care for your nails properly to keep them healthy.
Here are some tips on how to keep your nails in great condition.
Your cuticles are your natural defense against bacteria and fungus. Cuticles do not take kindly to being cut or trimmed, and often become red, ragged, or even bleeding if disturbed. If you cut or otherwise manipulate your cuticles, you are opening the door to all kinds of nasties that could set up an infection that might permanently damage the nail bed. This could cause your nails to become brittle, misshapen, or even come away altogether.
If you want to make your nails appear longer, soak your fingers in warm water to soften the cuticles, apply moisturizer, and then push the cuticles back very gently using an ‘orange stick’.
You can look after your cuticles and nail bed by applying a moisturizer or nail oil morning and evening. This can prevent nails becoming thirsty and breaking, especially if you live or work in a very dry environment.
Contrary to popular belief, nail hardening products are not good for your nails and can actually damage them by stripping the nail bed of natural oils, leaving your nails brittle and more liable to breakage. In fact, your nails should have a degree of flexibility, so that they bend rather than snap.
When filing your nails, always use an emery board or file with a very smooth, fine surface. File your nails in one direction only, and use a slow, even stroking motion. Sawing back and forth with a very abrasive emery board can cause tiny cracks to form in the nail surface that can ultimately lead to tearing and breakage.
Be very careful with your choice of soap and shampoo. If you use a detergent-based shampoo that’s designed to remove oil and natural grease from your hair, it’ll do the same to your nails, potentially leaving them vulnerable to damage. Always wear thin latex gloves when washing your hair to protect your nails.
Many of the chemicals used in nail salons can cause your nails to dry out and become brittle. One product you should never use if you have very brittle nails is acetone polish remover. The chemicals contained within this substance strip your nails of their natural oils and make them even more liable to damage.
Frequent manicures can also lead to chronic nail bed infections that can fester unnoticed beneath your gel or false nails. This is often evidenced by reddening of the skin around the base of the nail, together with swelling. When the false nails are removed, you may notice discoloration or puffiness of your nail bed, together with an unpleasant odor, all of which indicates a nail bed infection. Some experts blame the salons’ use of the same manicure tools on each client, and therefore one simple way to cut down the risk of infection is to take your own tools when you go to have your nails done.
If you really can’t live without your manicure, choose nail tips, rather than full extensions. Although tips can still cause problems, damage is less likely to occur as the surface area of nail covered by the tip is much less than if you opt for full extensions.
Vitamin supplements for healthy nails
Research has shown that members of the B vitamin family, such as biotin, increase the thickness of your nails as well as helping to prevent breakage and splitting. Look out for vitamin supplements containing MSM and products that include silicon, both of which are great for nail health.
Health warning signs
The overall condition of your nails can be indicative of your overall health. Here’s what to look out for:
- Yellowing or thickening of the nail and very slow rate of growth – lung disease
- Nails that appear half white/half pink – kidney disease
- Nails that are very white in colour – liver disease
- Very pale nail beds – anaemia
- Nails that are tinged yellow with a slight pink blush at the base – diabetes
Beautiful finger nails can really add the perfect finishing touch to your look. Take care of your nails properly to keep them healthy, and perhaps rethink full nail extensions in favour of tips. If you have any great tips for thriving nails, why not share them in the comments box below?