Pay just a little attention to your nails and you’ll see them shine, whether you keep them bare and buffed or polished and professional. Read on for everything you need to know about nail care.
Healthy, strong nails help your hands look young and vibrant. To keep them at their best it helps to know a little bit about them. As you might remember from biology class, your nails are made up of layers of protein called keratin. It takes 10 days for your nails to grow one millimeter, so it can take four to six months for a nail cell to make the trip from cuticle to clipping.
While some people claim that vitamin or calcium deficiencies can cause weak, brittle nails, Mayo Clinic experts disagree. They say that only protein deficiencies can show up as nail problems, and those are uncommon in the United States because our diets include more than enough protein. Still, it can be tough to strengthen soft or chip-prone nails. Keeping them short can help — trim them after a bath or shower when they’re less brittle. Moisturize afterward, and moisturize again before bed. A nail hardener may also help.
Polishing your nails can keep them attractive and well-groomed, and changing your nail polish is an easy way to freshen and update your look. Keep nail polish remover to a minimum, though — try touching up your polish instead. And use an acetone-free remover to help prevent dryness.
Acrylic fingernails are a great choice if you want great-looking nails and your own don’t quite measure up. They shouldn’t damage your natural nails, although your own fingernails may become discolored or rough from the acrylics. Make sure there’s no gap between the acrylic nail and your own — these tiny, damp dark spots are inviting breeding grounds for bacteria.
To keep your nails at their best, treat them well. Here’s how.
- Wear gloves anytime you’re doing prolonged cleaning or using chemicals.
- Fingernails are not tools. If you have to get a job done, get a screwdriver or other tool for prying.
- Break bad habits. Don’t bite your nails or cuticles — not only does this make your nails look unattractive, you’re creating an opening for infection in your nails, not to mention your immune system!
- Moisturize. Anytime you slather lotion on your hands, make sure to treat your nails too.
- Clip — don’t pull — to remove hangnails.
- Neatly trim your nails to the length you prefer.
- Clean underneath your nails regularly.
Don’t be surprised if your doctor takes a look at your nails when you’re in for a checkup. Signs of illnesses ranging from diabetes to anemia can show up on your fingernails.
- Healthy nails are smooth, evenly colored, and spot-free.
- Vertical ridges are harmless, and you’re most likely to see them show up as you get older.
- Horizontal lines show up when the nail growth gets interrupted, usually because of injury or illness.
- White spots usually stem from a nail injury — you’ll see these spots slowly grow out and disappear.
- Pitting can be a sign of the skin condition psoriasis.
- Yellowed nails can indicate bronchitis, swelling in your hands, or an infection beneath the nail. Don’t forget your toes! There are 10 more nails down there — and the same rules apply. Most people prefer to keep their toenails short, alleviating problems like chipping or cracking. Toenails tend to be thicker and stronger than fingernails. Trim them straight across to help reduce the chance of ingrown toenails, and dress them up in your favorite polish.