Do's and Don'ts for Healthy Nails

Sometimes your fingernails can have ridges, dents, or areas of unusual color or shape.

Many nail conditions can be avoided through proper fingernail care while others might indicate an underlying condition that needs attention.

Here's what you need to know to keep your fingernails in excellent shape.

What's Normal

Fingernails are composed of layers of a protein called keratin that grows from the area under the cuticle.

Healthy fingernails are smooth, without pits or grooves.

They're uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration.

Sometimes fingernails develop harmless vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Vertical ridges tend to become more prominent with age.

Fingernails can also develop white lines or spots due to injury, but these eventually grow out with the nail.

Consult your doctor or dermatologist if you notice:

-          Changes in nail color, such as discoloration of the entire nail or a dark streak under the nail
-          Changes in nail shape, such as curled nails
-          Thinning or thickening of the nails
-          Separation of the nail from the surrounding skin
-          Bleeding around the nails
-          Swelling or pain around the nails
-          Failure of nails to grow out

Fingernail Do’s

-          Keep fingernails dry and clean. This prevents bacteria from growing under your fingernails.
-          Repeated or prolonged contact with water can contribute to split fingernails. Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when washing dishes, cleaning or using harsh chemicals.
-          Trim your nails straight across, then round the tips in a gentle curve.
-          Rub hand lotion into your fingernails and cuticles, regularly.
-          Applying a nail hardener might help strengthen nails.

Fingernail Don'ts

-          Don’t bite your fingernails or pick at your cuticles. These habits can damage the nail bed. Even a minor cut alongside your fingernail can allow bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection.
-          Don’t pull off hangnails because you might rip tissue along with the hangnail. Instead, carefully clip off hangnails.
-          Don’t use harsh nail care products and limit your use of nail polish remover. When using nail polish remover, choose an acetone-free formula.
-          Don’t ignore nail problems. If you have a nail problem that doesn't seem to go away on its own or is associated with other signs and symptoms, consult your doctor for an evaluation.

Tips for Professional Manicures and Pedicures

-          Make sure technician is licensed.
-          Don't have your cuticles removed as they act to seal the skin to the nail plate, so removal can lead to nail infection.
-          Make sure the nail technician properly sterilizes all tools used during your procedure to prevent the spread of infection.
-          For pedicures, you might want to ask how the foot baths are cleaned. Usually a bleach solution is used between clients and the filters are cleaned regularly.

It's easy to neglect your nails but taking some basic steps can keep your 
fingernails healthy and strong.

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