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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Guide to Healthy Fingernails

'shan hand' photo (c) 2008, Shannon Kringen - license:

Fingernails are like frontline soldiers. They go through a lot, but they’re usually tough if you take care of them.

It’s that last part that seems to trip people up sometimes. Nail care is kind of an ambiguous art. Until you break one, experience a painful ingrown or need them to look nice for an event, odds are you don’t pay very close attention to your nails. Here’s The Skinny on a few things you can do to ensure healthy nails – for both your fingers and toes – as well as when to consult a dermatologist for any problems.

Don’t drown them.
Most people don’t even think about potential damage to the nails when they wash dishes, take long baths or wash their hands multiple times per day. If you’ve ever taken a long bath and then tried to clip your nails, you may have noticed they seemed softer or more pliable. That’s what happens when they’re submerged in water for too long – they get soggy! Keep your nails dry and clean to avoid fungus or weak nails that will break or tear. This includes wearing gloves while washing dishes.

Don’t bite them!
This is a given, and I assume most of your mothers told you not to bite your nails. Not only is it gross (do you really want that stuff in your mouth?), it can cause them to fracture at the edges, resulting in breaks later on too. If you need to, paint your nails to avoid biting them. You may even try a strengthening clear polish. Remember though, it’s important to let them breathe at least once a week, so be sure to remove your polish periodically.

Feed them well.
Your nails are made of a protein called keratin that grows from underneath your cuticle. As it regenerates, the harder, tougher parts get pushed out to become your fingernail. Just like the rest of your body, your nails need nutrients. Make sure your diet includes lots of good protein. If you’re looking for a supplement, go for a vitamin with biotin in it. You can also help repair damaged nails topically with Vitamin E. Just use a pin to poke a hole in the supplement pill and rub the gel onto your nails to aid in their healing process.

Give them a little TLC.
Your nails are important! Keep them strong and healthy by taking care of them. When you clip them, be sure to clip them straight across, using a nail file to round out the corners. This will help avoid ingrown nails that are often caused by clipping the nail too close to the bed. Also, don’t forget your nails when moisturizing – while water can “drown” them, a little hand lotion can go a long way in revitalizing them.

And don’t ever use them as a tool! It’s tempting to use your nails to break into a box or get underneath a stubborn bottle cap, but it will ruin them. Also, never “rip off” a hangnail, as it can damage healthy tissue.

You should consult a dermatologist if…
Healthy fingernails are smooth, close to the skin’s natural color and free of discolorations, ridges or blemishes. While white marks or other small imperfections may pop up periodically as a result of injury or other external cause, but some irregularities need to be checked out by a dermatologist. These include:
  • Dark or substantial discolorations
  •  Change in the growth direction of the nail
  • Curling nails
  • Bleeding or redness/swelling around the nail bed
  • Substantial thinning or thickening of the nail

Have any questions I didn’t answer here? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them there. If you’d like to get more information about Advanced Dermatology or book an appointment, visit our website here.

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