Wouldn’t it be fabulous to have perfect nails, like you see in magazine ads? Long, smooth and perfectly polished. We all want that! But be careful… some commonly accepted nail care habits can actually end up damaging your nails. Let’s focus on how to keep nails both beautiful AND healthy.
1) Stop Cutting Your Cuticles
One “common practice” is to trim or push back the nail cuticle (made of skin), for a better appearance. But the cuticle serves an important function: to keep fungus and bacteria (and everything else) out of the nail bed. Constant trimming can make them irritated and swollen. Or even worse, the nail bed can become infected. It looks unattractive and feels uncomfortable. It also hampers the fingernail’s growth. Cutting your cuticles can also lead to ridges, white spots and white lines. Okay, you get the point. So what should you do?
2) Moisturize Your Cuticles
I know your cuticles don’t feel like the soft skin on your face or hands, but they are made up primarily of skin. So it’s essential to keep them moisturized. The only question is what to use. And here, there are a number of good options.
Your dermatologist would probably tell you to use a thick moisturizing product, like ointments or creams. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends petroleum jelly (Vaseline) as an inexpensive way to care for the cuticles. But ointments are greasy and not very practical. Unless you’re willing to wear surgical gloves the whole day, or don’t mind seeing oily spots around your home or office, try this. Simply use your facial moisture. Whatever works for your face will work for your cuticles. The more frequently you moisturize, the better it will be. At night, try a cream for cracked heals, it works great and you’ll see improvement in just a few days.
3) Beware of the Well-intentioned Manicurist!
Imagine the music from “Jaws” playing now… I’m joking of course. But if you do treat yourself to a professional manicure, look out for the harsh chemicals they use. Especially acetone polish remover. Acetone strips the nail surface and makes it brittle – you can feel it right away. In fact, in one study they found that women who had regular manicures were the most likely to have dry, brittle nails. That’s due their exposure to more chemicals and harsher ingredients. And watch out for the “aggressive” nail technician who employs over-rigorous manipulation. Ask her to stop immediately. If not, you may be one of the many women that have to see their dermatologist when the red sore spots develop around the nail and cuticle. It’s usually a skin infection known as paronychia, and you’ll antibiotics for that. Tell your manicurist to push back your cuticles gently and only with orange stick.
4) Forget Topical Nail Hardeners
What about the “so-called” strenghtheners and hardeners you apply to nails? In my opinion, there’s nothing that you can put on your nails that makes them harder, unless you’re talking about epoxy glue! Understand, what you see on the surface of your nails now began long before those nails peeked out from behind your cuticle. And there is a way to strengthen and harden your nails, and it starts from the inside. Your nails are made of keratin. Just like your hair. Inside your body you have cells that generate keratin (keratinocytes). As you age, these keratinocytes start working slower and less efficiently. The keratin they produce is a lower quality. The result is nails that chip easily and hair that becomes brittle, and even loses its shine. There’s only one product I know of that has the ability to generate both keratin and collagen. It’s called BioSil® SKIN HAIR NAILS. In double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, BioSil not only thickened and strengthened hair by 13%, it produced dramatically firmer and smoother nails. The women I talk to all swear by it. You can find it at Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, and other health food stores.