Your nails reflect your overall health. They should be firm and smooth. The nail plates should be uniform in color without pits or grooves. The tips should be strong and white, and the cuticles should be visible.
Proper nail care will help nails stay beautiful and healthy. Here are some dermatologist-approved tips for taking care of your nails.
Dos and Don’ts for Healthy Nails
- Clip with Care. Use nail clippers to keep your nails short. This will help prevent dirt, germs and bacteria from building up beneath them. For fingernails, use clippers to round off the corners slightly and an emery board to shape them further, if you like. For the toes, clip straight across to avoid ingrown toenails. Clipping your nails regularly will keep them from snagging, breaking or getting ripped.
- Don’t Bite. Biting your nails is not only unsanitary, it can damage the skin around your nails, giving germs an opportunity to take hold and create a bacterial or fungal nail infection. Picking at your cuticles or ripping off hangnails can do the same. If you have a habit of biting your nails that is hard to break, try applying a bitter-tasting nail-biting deterrent or using fake nails to cover up your real ones. In a pinch, gloves or band-aids work, too!
- Don’t Cut Cuticles. The cuticle is a thin layer of skin at the bottom edge of your finger or toe. While it is common in nail salons to cut this skin away, we advise against this practice. The cuticle has an important role protecting new nails as they grow from the nail root. If it is damaged, infection can occur and new nail growth can be impaired. If you don’t like the look of your cuticles, you can gently push them back with a nail tool like an orange wood stick or a sanitized metal cuticle pusher.
- Wear Gloves. To keep your nails in good condition, wear gloves any time you use hot water, dirt, or chemicals, including those used for house cleaning. Cold air can also dry out your nails, so wear gloves to protect your hands in the winter.
- Moisturize. Include your nails as a part of your regular moisturizing routine. Apply a quality moisturizer to the skin around your nails after showers, including the cuticles. Alternatively, you can use a special cuticle oil, especially if your cuticles are very dry.
- Check your Polish Products. Some polishes are harder on nails than others. For example, gel polishes require soaking in acetone and aggressive peeling, scraping and buffing to remove them. Wearing gel polish for long periods can also make nails brittle and dry, so use gel polishes sparingly if at all. Opt for acetone-free nailpolish remover and polishes that are free from harsh chemicals like toluene, formaldehyde and DBP that can turn nails dry and brittle. If you do keep your nails painted, give them a break every now and again, and make sure you remove nailpolish when having your annual skin check with your dermatologist so the doctor can check your nail beds for signs of skin cancer.
- Eat More Biotin. Last, but not least, eat more biotin! Bioton, also known as Vitamin H, helps to fight brittle nails and has been shown to improve the quality of hair, skin and nails. Some foods rich in biotin include eggs, almonds, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.
See a Doctor for These Nail Problems
If you notice problems with your nails, a dermatologist is the right place to bring those concerns. Some nail issues are harmless, but others can be signs of more serious health problems. Some things to look out for include:
- Discolored nail or nails
- Dark streaks in the nail bed (this can be a sign of subungual melanoma, so don’t wait to see a dermatologist)
- The nail plate separating from the nail bed
- Changes in nail shape
- Thickening or thinning of nails
- Ragged, brittle or crumbling nails
- Nails stop growing properly
- Bleeding, swollen or inflamed nails
By taking care of your nails and reporting any problems promptly to your dermatologist, you’ll be well on your way to beautiful, healthy nails!