Top tips to better care for your nails
General nail care
Oftentimes, proper maintenance of the nails can help to prevent the development of irregularities and problems. Signs of good health include a good growth rate, a smooth nail plate and uniform colour and consistency.
Factors which are helpful in keeping nails in their best condition
- Clean and dry: Good hygiene practice involving the adequate cleaning and drying of nails can help to keep bacterial or fungal infections at bay. Cleaning routines should include scrubbing the underside of nails with soap and warm water – a nail brush can help to sufficiently and gently clean the underside of nails. Nails which are kept long are more prone to accumulating dirt and germs and can benefit from daily cleaning to avoid potential infections. Care should be taken not to expose nails to prolonged contact with water as this can contribute to weakening of the nails, resulting in splitting or cracking. Exposure to harsh substances or chemicals can be avoided by wearing gloves or foot coverings where necessary.
- Healthy moisturisation: To avoid dryness which can also lead to splitting and cracking of the nails, regular lotion moisturisation helps. The cuticles can benefit from moisturising lotions too. Coconut oil is also a good moisturising agent for nails and can be used every so often.
- Nail instruments: Manicure or pedicure instruments, like clippers, scissors and nail files should be clean and sharp. Best practice for trimming nails is straight across with gentle rounded curves at the tips.
- Nutritional supplements: Where nutritional deficiencies apply, some individuals may benefit from taking supplements – these can help to strengthen nails that are prone to weakening. It is advisable to speak to a pharmacist or medical professional to ensure the correct dosages are taken.
Factors which may help to prevent nail damage and irregularities
- Avoid deliberate injury: Nail biting and picking can cause damage (open wounds etc.) which makes the nails vulnerable to infection. Jagged and loose skin near the root of the nail, known as hangnails should also not be pulled, bitten or ripped off for the same reason. Careful clipping will help to avoid injury.
- Avoid over-grooming: Removing the cuticle, for instance, may be aesthetically pleasing to some, but it does have a healthy function – the cuticle helps to ‘seal’ the skin over the nail plate, protecting the nail bed from injury and infection.
- Avoid using harsh products, including those for nail care purposes: Acetones and acetone-based nail vanish removers can cause harm to nails with excessive use. Acetone-free products or limited use of those containing acetone can help to avoid weakening the overall condition of the nails. Buffing the nails can achieve a healthy sheen which can also improve circulation and make them stronger – This can be a good alternative to the constant polishing or varnishing of the nails.
- Address abnormalities and irregularities: Some abnormalities or changes affecting the nails are harmless and typically resolve over the short-term provided the aggravating factor is avoided or removed (e.g. nails are given a break from varnishes or acrylic applications). The development of multiple abnormalities or other health related signs and symptoms that accompany nail changes should be medically evaluated and not ignored.
- Visit licensed salons with credible technicians: If opting to groom one’s nails at salons, it is a good idea to ensure that the facilities, instruments and technicians operate in an acceptable and hygienic manner. This can help to prevent numerous nail problems and irregularities. Foot baths and soaks are also commonly used in salons – it’s a good idea to ensure that these, as well as all instruments and towels used are properly washed, cleaned / sanitised so as to avoid potential infections.
When the body lacks the various nutrients and minerals it needs for overall healthy function, some of the first physical signs appear in the skin, hair and nails. Balanced nutrition is important for overall physical health, helping to keep risk for disease development as low as possible.
Healthy nail function can benefit from regular and balanced consumption of foodstuffs containing protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals (including zinc) and omega-3 fats.
Healthy sources of protein are helpful for producing the proteins (keratin) needed for sufficient nail growth and overall function. Biotin, a water-soluble B vitamin helps to metabolise carbohydrates, fats and amino acids in the body. This may play a role in strengthening nails and hair. (8) Biotin is also useful for keratin production which aids in healthy nail growth. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties which benefits nail health too. Inflammation can disrupt normal nail development. A healthy balance of omega-3s can also help to strengthen nails and avoid softening, cracking and splitting.
8. Karger. 2017. A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss: https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/462981 [Accessed 11.09.2018]