Nails and your health

Time was when perfectly groomed nails meant that you were a member of the idle rich who only used your hands “to sew a fine seam and eat strawberries and cream. “Today your nails tell tales about your personality – whether you are fun loving or no-nonsense, a professional or a pianist, a sophisticated or a student.

Nails are Important

Well cared for nails are important, partly because they are part of your body and you should care for ALL of it. More importantly, how often have you looked at a dashy bloke, thought “Mmmmmm…” and then noticed his grubby, scruffy nails?

The stuff that nails are made of:

Good looking, wear resistant nails depend on strength, flexibility. Like hair nails are made up of keratin a fibrous, porous protein whose cells stretch when exposed to water.

The shapes of the nails vary but usually belong to one of these groups. Square, round, oval, pointed shape your nails according to the shape that’s closest to your natural shape.

The Key to Healthy Nails

The principal key to looking after your nails is moisturising, moisturising and still more moisturising. Moisturise them daily at the very least and care for your cuticles too. Regular manicuring is important too as it will not only keep them in shape, but also prevent any small splits or rough bits from continuing to grow until you have to cut the whole nail back.

Cuticle Care

The cuticle is the nail’s protection between the exposed part of the nail (which is basically dead) and the new growing part – the matrix. This is where new cells are generated and your nails actually grow from there. You must not remove the cuticle! If you do, it destroys the nail matrix and then they can’t grow! On the other hand, you do want to keep cuticles from becoming overgrown, which can suffocate nail growth. The answer is to liberally apply a cuticle removal lotion, which will simply make the cuticles more pliable. Then, take an orangewood stick and, anywhere the cuticle skin touches the nail plate, push it back using tiny circular movements. Hold the stick at an angle so that you do this gradually and gently, without going inside the cuticle. And, of course, moisturise daily to prevent dryness.

Feed Your Nails

You can’t actually feed your nails directly, but a good diet is essential for overall nail health. Most experts agree that biotin-rich foods such as eggs, soy, whole grains and liver will help your nails to remain healthy, along with foods rich in sulphur minerals like apples, cucumbers, grapes, garlic, asparagus and onions. Also, be sure to include essential fatty acids (EFAs) in your diet. Like vitamins and minerals, foods rich in EFAs, such as salmon, nuts, seeds and tuna, help keep nails shiny and pliable.

Your Fingernails are NOT Tools

Using your fingernails as tools, even for pushing back your cuticles, or for such things as scratching labels off is a very bad idea! Use the proper tools for picking and scraping – not your nails!

To start with here’s a list of nail problems you could run into.

Allergic Reactions:


The usual culprit is nail polish. Beside the vicinity of the nails, the reddish itchy spots may appear on delicate skin areas such as the eyelids or sides of the neck or face, touched by the nails.

  • What to do:
    Dab on calamine lotion.

Brittle Breakaways:

The main villain is lack of moisture. Each time you put your hands in water the keratin swells and shrinks when dry. This weakens the bonds that hold up the nail matrix. Too long nails and faulty filling can also have a similar effect.

  • What to do:
    Soak for ten minutes at night in baby oil or olive oil.
    Keep nails short.
    Use a file with a sponge centre.
    Use oil based not acetone remover.

Fungal Infection: Trapped moisture.

  • What to do:
    Use anti-fungal ointment.
    Wait till the infection has cleared before using polish.
    Throw away products used on infected nail.

Ingrown toe nails:


A nail cut too short, curved at the corners, too tight shoes resulting in the nail cutting into the flesh causing pain, swelling and inflammation.

  • What to do: 
    Dip cotton bud in antibiotic ointment and push under the nail edge .
    If infection and push set in, consult a doctor.

Yellow Menace:


Cigarette strains, cheap or too dark nail polish, acetone remover.

  • What to do: 
    Wipe with a swab dipped in diluted hydrogen peroxide.
    Keep polish free for a while.

A perfect pedicure:

pretty feet make the rest of you look and feel great.

Soak your feet in warm sudsy water. Dry well, specially between the toes. Remove old polish. Trim your nail with a piece of scissors so that they are leveled with the top of your toes, following the toe. Try not to cut into the skin. File each nail until smooth. Put cotton wool between each toe to reduce chances of getting polish on your skin. Apply a base coat. Apply one or two colour coats. Apply a top coat. Pamper with petroleum jelly or lanolin before you go to bed.

Artificial Nails

There are several different systems for artificially strengthening and/or lengthening nails these days. In the main they fall into three categories. The reasons for having it done are manifold and personal. However, they all amount to decorating or strengthening nails that, for one reason or another, are short, weak, or damaged.

Sculptured Nails

Sculpturing nails can be done using any of the methods listed below. Acrylic, gel or fibre-glass is applied to your nails and the material is lengthened and sculpted over metal or foil to produced the desired length and shape. Alternatively, a plastic nail tip is first fixed in place with glue and then a layer of gel, fibre-glass, silk or acrylic is laid over the entire nail. As the natural nail grows out, your manicurist will fill in the base and file down the artificial tip. Eventually, you end up with just the overlay on your natural nail.


  • Acrylic nails are the strongest and longest-lasting of all nail overlays. As with all the methods, if it’s not done well, these nails can look thick and very artificial. Find a manicurist who is an expert at applying acrylic nails and you should get a very thin, natural-looking nail. They usually need to be filled in every two to three weeks as your nails grow, but depending on how hard you are on your nails, you may need to see the manicurist sooner to avoid nail loosening, which can lead to mildew if water gets trapped underneath. If a professional removes them properly, the acrylic nails should cause little weakening to the nail plate (see the note below). One factor that might make you choose acrylic is that it is the most commonly-used artificial nail and, if you travel a lot, it will be easier for you to find a manicurist to repair or fill in when necessary.
  • Wraps are pieces of silk, linen or fibre-glass that have been cut to the required shape and glued to the nail plate. This adds strength (and sometimes length) to the nail. Although done on natural nails, wraps are most commonly used to strengthen tips. Silk is the most natural-looking wrap and provides a lot of flexibility, but it is often too delicate for those with an active lifestyle. Linen is stronger, but it is not transparent and appears quite thick. Fibre-glass is the best of both worlds, since it provides the natural look of silk and the strength of linen.
  • Gel nails were originally made of dental porcelain gel-powder. Nowadays, manicurists use a Mylar form to sculpt your nail, and then cure, or set it under an ultraviolet light. Because of this process, gel nails may need to be filled in less often than acrylic nails, though fill-ins are still necessary and a professional must remove the tips.


It is very important that you keep your cuticles in good condition and moisturised, and your nails filled-in as necessary, while your artificial nails are on, and that you moisturise and manicure your nails properly and frequently after removal.

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