Maintaining strong, healthy, attractive nails is a critical part of good grooming and self-care. Whether offering your hand when greeting a business associate or reaching out to caress the face of a loved one, you want your hands and nails to be at their best. There are many habits that are obviously bad for your fingernails. Chewing your fingernails or peeling away your polish is among them. The following 11 activities are habits or activities that you may not even realize are damaging your nails.
11. Wearing Polish Too Long
Leaving your nail polish on long after it has begun to chip away not only looks unsightly but also can be damaging to the nail itself. According to Dr. Joy Rowland of the Cleveland Clinic, nail polish can penetrate the top layers of your nails, drying them out and leaving them brittle and yellowed. Allow your nails to go polish-free for a few weeks between polish applications to allow them to breathe. Apply moisturizer to your nails as well as your hands to keep them from drying out.
10. Using Acetone Polish Remover
It is important to remove nail polish every couple of weeks to allow your nails to breathe. However, acetone polish removers are harsh and can strip away moisture from your nails. Acetone is a powerful chemical that removes polish quickly and easily. The danger comes from also damaging already dry or fragile nails. If you have dry, brittle nails or sensitive skin, you may want to use non-acetone polishes. Reserve acetone for tougher jobs such as dark or no-chip polishes. Be sure to use a moisturizer on your hands and nails following polish removal.
9. Leaving Them Unfiled
Filing your nails not only gives them a pleasing shape but also helps prevent them from splitting or tearing. Nail It! recommends using a soft nail file and holding the file flat against the nail tip. Never saw back and forth at your nails. Rather, guide the emery board or file along the nail in one direction to prevent fraying. First, file across the top of the nail. Next, file each side of the nail. Lastly, gently round the corners to create the desired shape.
8. Picking at Your Cuticles
Keep your cuticles healthy by refraining from picking at, cutting, or trimming them. Your cuticles are the thin, clear, layer, of skin cells along the bottom of your fingernail. They protect your fingernails as they grow. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, cutting your cuticles may allow bacteria to grow and cause an infection that is difficult to treat. If your cuticles bother you, you can gently push them back with an orange stick. Keep your cuticles well moisturized and allow them to protect your nail bed.
7. Frequently Applying Gels or Acrylics
A manicure using gels or acrylics can leave you with gorgeous-looking nails. However, they are highly damaging to your nails. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these nail treatments are damaging both when prepping your natural nails and when removing the artificial nails. Excessive buffing before applying the nails can thin and weaken your natural nails. Then, harsh treatments that involve acetone or filing to remove the artificial nails create additional trauma to your natural nails. To keep your own nails healthy and strong, reserve the use of gels or artificial nails for special occasions.
6. Using Them as Tools
It can be tempting to use your nails to pop the tab on a soda can or break into the plastic packaging on a purchase. However, these activities cause wear and tear that damages your nails. Avoid damaging your nails by using a spoon to pop the tab on your can of cola. Keep a small pair of scissors in your purse for removing stubborn packing or plastic from new purchases. Use a coin to scratch off price tags or labels. For stubborn sticky residue, use a paste of water and washing soda to dissolve away the goo.
5. Washing Dishes Without Gloves
Refraining from wearing gloves while washing dishes allows the dish soap and hot water to dry out your skin and nails. A good pair of gloves not only protects your hands and nails but also prevents you from having to touch nasty food residue when scrubbing your pots and pans. It also removes the temptation to use your fingernails to pry off any stubborn food or gunk. There are many kitchen gloves available that come with a soft lining that allows you to easily slip the gloves off and on and keep your hands feeling soft and dry.
4. Leaving Them Unprotected When Cleaning
Dishwashing isn’t the only chore that is damaging to your hands and nails. To keep your nails strong and healthy, invest in a pair of gloves to protect your hands while washing floors, cleaning windows, and scrubbing toilets. Household gloves protect your hands from harsh and toxic chemicals as well as from touching filthy or germy surfaces. There are a wide variety of gloves on the market, including latex-free types for those with allergies. Mr. Clean makes an assortment of gloves in disposable, reusable, neoprene, latex, and latex-free.
3. Not Protecting Them Against the Elements
Wind, rain, snow, and cold can be damaging to your skin and your nails. When heading out into the elements, be sure to pull on a pair of gloves. The UV rays from the sun are also damaging to your skin and nails. Apply a moisturizing hand cream with an SPF of at least 30 to protect your hands from the dangerous rays of the sun. Be sure to rub the sunscreen into your nails and cuticles when applying it to your hands.
2. Allowing Nails to be Dirty
When washing your hands, don’t neglect the area beneath your fingernails. Even if your nails look clean, they may be harboring germs. A sturdy nail brush can help you gently scrub away dirt and bacteria that can lurk beneath your nails. The Minnesota Department of Health advises first wetting your hands and nail brush before lathering the brush with soap and scrubbing your nails. Next, rinse your hands before soaping and lathering them once again. Finally, rinse your hands and dry them with a soft towel.
1. Eating Poorly
Your nails, just like the rest of your body, rely on proper nutrition to retain health and strength. A diet consisting of lean proteins, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and fiber will keep your nails strong and attractive. Some studies suggest that foods rich in biotin are particularly helpful for maintaining healthy nails. Foods that contain biotin include liver, egg yolks, dairy products, fish, and nuts. These foods also contain protein, which is essential for building strong tissues and can help improve nail health.