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How To Keep Your Nails Healthy

How to care for your hands and nails to keep them healthy and looking great!

Sep 16, 2019

Some people are born with perfect nail beds and strong fingernails that always naturally look gorgeous. Most people, however, aren’t that lucky. Whether your nails are brittle and chip easily, are soft and won’t hold nail polish, are weirdly shaped and curve up like potato chips, or are squishy and rip all the time, a little TLC of your fingernails once a week could really make a big difference.

Even if you weren't born with perfect nail beds and strong nails, a little grooming goes a long way!Even if you weren't born with perfect nail beds and strong nails, a little grooming goes a long way!Courtesy of Groupon

Nail Care For Imperfect Nails

If your nails are brittle and crack often, limit your exposure to things that dry out your nails like nail polish, acetone-based nail polish remover and alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Moisturize your nails with Vitamin E or coconut oil and use a hand lotion with alpha hydroxy acid or lanolin – take advantage of free trials at the mall to see which ones you like best. But if your nails are soft but break easily or don’t hold polish, they may be too moist so cut back on the moisturizer.

For oddly-shaped nails, you can’t train your nails to grow differently, but you can keep them in great shape by filing them once a week on the same day you clip your toenails so you don’t forget.

If you find polish peels off your nails almost as soon as it dries, your nail may be too flexible or weak. To keep polish from peeling or chipping off, clean your fingernails with non-acetone-based nail polish remover. Make sure your hands and nails are dry before you polish. Although almost every manicurist will soak your fingernails before they begin, recent research has shown that soaking your hands before a manicure is the top cause of peeling polish! Use good quality nail polish, start with a strong base coat before you apply color, and apply top coat after your nail polish is completely dry to seal the color in. Avoid “60 second” type polishes and top coats, which don’t allow the coats beneath it to dry and will also cause peeling or chipping.

Short nails? No problem! It just means a smaller canvas if you know a good nail artistShort nails? No problem! It just means a smaller canvas if you know a good nail artistCourtesy of gel nails by danielle

Learn more: Follow these tips on How to give yourself a manicure, or try Press-on nails.

Treating Common Nail Problems

Ripped Cuticles and Nail Biting Issues

Nail biting is a tough habit to break, but it’s the most important first step if you’re looking to take better care of your hands. Biting your cuticles may seem like a good alternative, but it’s even worse for you! Sometimes, the skin around your nails starts to peel away and hangs off your fingers. DON’T BITE IT! Saliva has germs and can get into the area under your cuticles, leading to fungus or infection. Don’t rip it off, either. We’ve all experienced that awful feeling when you rip off a hanging cuticle and our finger starts to bleed. Cuticles are small but important barriers of skin around your fingernails that prevent bacteria from sneaking into the nail bed and keep it safe from infection. That’s why you should never bite or cut your cuticles, and if you go for a manicure, tell your manicurist before she starts that you want her to be gentle with your cuticles.

To keep cuticles healthy, doctors advise softening cuticles first using oil, hand moisturizer, or even Vaseline, then using a wooden “orange stick” to gently guide cuticles that seem to be creeping up your fingernails back into place. Then clip hanging cuticles with a nail scissor or clipper, making sure you don’t cut too close to your finger or nail. 

Nail Fungus

Fungi love wet, dark environments, and the place between your nail and skin is a perfect environment for growth. Your cuticles and the area around your nail are naturally sealed, so if you don’t pick at your cuticles and keep your hands clean, you’re not at risk. However, if you visit a nail salon that doesn’t sanitize its tools between clients, do your own nails with unclean tools, wear gel or acrylic nails, or spend a lot of time with your hands soaking in water, you should keep an eye out. Signs of a nail fungus include: part of your nail turning white, yellow, or brown; a nail that lifts up so it’s no longer attached to your finger; a nail that turns mushy, crumbly or can be scraped off. If you see any of these signs, make an appointment with a dermatologist immediately for treatment. Untreated nail fungus can cause your nail to fall off, but early treatment can save your nail!

Broken Nail Quick Fix

If you rip or break a nail, don’t pull it off or cut it right away. There may be help for it! An ingenious old trick using a tea bag, a nail file, and clear polish can save your nail and keep it strong until you can get to a manicurist or your nail grows long enough to file it off.

Simply take a dry, unused tea bag and empty the contents into a compost bin or onto the ground outdoors. Open the tea bag into a single layer and place it over your nail. Cut the bag into the shape of your nail (a little bigger is fine – you can always shape it afterward) with enough left on the top to fold over the top of your nail and fortify it on the other side as well if it’s long enough. Paint a clear coat of nail strengthening polish onto your nail to act as glue, then place the tea bag patch on top. Paint another clear coat of polish over the top and let it dry. Trim or file down the excess tea bag so it doesn’t show. Finally, polish your nail as you would in a normal manicure. 

Eye-catching designs take focus away from imperfect fingers or nail shape. Can't grow long nails? Press-on nails are a fun alternative!Eye-catching designs take focus away from imperfect fingers or nail shape. Can't grow long nails? Press-on nails are a fun alternative!Courtesy of claudianailsit via instagram

What About Gel Nail Polish?

Stay away from Gel Polish for now. A gel manicure is an appealing alternative. While they’re 3x more expensive, they do last 3x or even 4x longer than regular fingernail polish. The issue comes up with removal. Gel polish stays on so well because it binds to your fingernail, and that means it’s not just hard to take off, it also takes off layers of your nail with it! The other issue is that gel nails put you at risk for a nail fungus. “When these tight seals are formed, water or moisture often gets trapped underneath,” says Karyn Grossman, MD, a dermatologist in Santa Monica, California. 

Share With Kidzworld

Remember your nails are your jewels -- not tools. Don’t use them to pick or scrape at anything and they’ll thank you by staying shapely and fabulous! How do you feel about your nails? Love 'em or hate 'em? Tell us why (and what you do about it) in the comments below.