Your hands reveal a lot about you. Strong, healthy-looking fingernails are not only attractive, but they can also be an indication of good health and attention to personal well-being. Your hands and nails are subjected to a lot of wear and tear from household chores, harsh weather, and damaging chemicals. Invest time in caring for your nails and you will be rewarded with strong, supportive, healthy-looking hands.
10. Protect Against Water
Frequent exposure to water from dish washing, cleaning, or frequent hand washing can leave you with nails that are soft yet brittle and prone to breakage. Don a pair of rubber gloves when washing dishes, scrubbing floors, or preparing food. Cotton-lined gloves will protect your hands while preventing the sticky, sweaty feeling of keeping rubber against your skin. Wear gloves when out in wintry weather or cold rains in order to protect your hands and nails from the elements. Frequent hand washing is important during flu season, but don’t neglect thoroughly patting your hands dry with a soft towel after washing.
9. Keep Your Nails Trimmed
While long nails can be beautiful, they are also more susceptible to wear and tear. This can result in broken, jagged fingernails that can rip or break, allowing infection to occur. Keep your nails trimmed in order to prevent breakage. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends trimming your nails after a shower or bath, when the nails are still soft from the water. Trimming your nails should require several cuts. Cutting them straight on can bend or break the nail. Instead, cut them nearly straight across, moving the nail clipper from one side toward the other.
8. File Your Nails
Keeping your nails neatly filed can prevent snags and tears due to the rough edges of your fingernails catching on fabrics. The nail professionals at Nail It! recommend filing your nails with an emery board with a grit number of 240. This is a soft file that is less likely to tear your fingernails. File your nails in one direction, avoiding the back-and-forth sawing motion that will fray the edges of your nails. Instead, start at the edge of your nail plate and glide the file smoothly over the edge of the nail toward the middle. Keep an emery board in your purse or briefcase to file away any rough edges that occur during the course of the day.
7. Get Enough Biotin
Biotin is a B vitamin that aids in cell growth and the metabolism of fatty acids, carbohydrates, and protein. A diet rich in biotin helps maintain healthy skin and hair. While biotin is available in supplements, it is easy to incorporate foods containing biotin into your daily menu. Add biotin-rich foods like eggs, avocado, fruits, and cauliflower to your diet to help promote strong and healthy nails. Sweet potatoes, nuts, and liver are also good sources of biotin.
6. Avoid Harsh Chemicals
Protect your nails by avoiding nail polishes, acrylic nails, and gels. If you can’t resist decorating your nails with a pop of color, seek out nontoxic polishes like those made by Zoya. This company has removed chemicals such as toluene, formaldehyde, camphor, and dibutyl phthalate from its nail products. Nail polish removers containing acetone work quickly, but are especially harsh on fingernails. Seek non-acetone polish removers to be gentler on your nails. Additionally, protect your hands and nails from the chemicals in household cleaners and disinfectants by wearing gloves while cleaning.
5. Give Your Nails a Break from Polish
If you do choose to wear nail polish, give your nails a break between nail polish applications. Wearing nail polish for extended periods of time can leave nails yellow and brittle. Enjoy a nail color for five or seven days, and then remove the polish to allow your nails to recover. Buffing your nails can provide a smooth and healthy shine without using polish.
4. Be Kind to Your Cuticles
Cuticles are the small folds of skin that overlap the bottom edge of your nail plate. The cuticles protect your nails as new nail forms at the base of your nail bed. Never cut your cuticles, as this allows bacteria to access your nail bed and can introduce infection. Instead, if your cuticles seem to be creeping forward on your nail plate, pamper them by soaking them in warm, soapy water. This will soften the cuticles, allowing you to gently push them back toward the base of the nail with a cuticle stick. Massage moisturizer into your cuticles when you are applying hand lotion to keep them soft and supple.
3. Consume a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals will keep your nails and your body healthy and strong. Calcium and vitamin D work together to form strong teeth, bones, and nails. Enjoy calcium-rich dairy products, green vegetables, and fortified cereals and juices to get your daily allotment of calcium. Vitamin D can be found in eggs, fish, and fortified cereals and juices. The antioxidants found in leafy green vegetables and vibrant berries protect your skin and nails against the damaging effects of free radicals. Iron-rich meats, poultry, and dark green vegetables help form healthy red blood cells.Related: 11 Ways You May Be Ruining Your Nails Without Realizing It
2. Pamper Your Nails
Nourishing your nails doesn’t have to involve an expensive trip to a nail salon. Pamper your nails at home by keeping them moisturized. Give dry or brittle nails an extra treat by soaking them for a few minutes in olive oil. Make your own cuticle cream using Viviane Niemann’s recipe for lavender-scented Homemade Cuticle Cream. This recipe requires only beeswax, shea butter, vitamin E oil, and lavender essential oil. Brighten dull or yellowing nails by rubbing them with a bit of lemon. If your hands and nails are extra dry, try massaging Aquaphor into your hands at night. Pull on a pair of cotton gloves and wake up in the morning with soft, well-hydrated skin.
1. Consult a Dermatologist
If you notice changes in the texture, color, or thickness of your nails, you may want to consult your physician. In some cases, changes in fingernails can be indications of underlying disease. Fingernails that are blue may indicate a decreased oxygen supply due to lung problems. Fingernails that take on a curved, spoon-like shape can be a symptom of anemia, heart disease, or thyroid disorders. Horizontal ridges on the fingernails may indicate thyroid disease or psoriasis. Nail pitting can be a sign of an underlying immune disorder.Related: What Your Fingernails May Be Telling You About Your Health