Healthy nails, happy you

Some simple, yet effective, tips can help you keep your nails healthy and attractive

Cleaning nailsOur nails are made of a hard protein called keratin. Nail growth varies from one person to another, and even between individual fingers of the same hand. Nails grow from between 0.05-1.2mm per week, taking approximately seven months to grow out completely. Fingernails grow faster than toenails, and growth increases during the summer and decreases during the cooler months. Nails are an indicator of good health so it is a good idea to care for them and keep them well-groomed. The care of your hands and nails is called manicuring. A basic manicure should be done on a weekly basis but, it is wise to visit a beauty salon for a professional manicure every four to six weeks.

Nails and health

Taking good care of your nails and maintaining their cleanliness is very important. Did you know that your fingernails carry bacteria and germs beneath them? If nails are not neatly trimmed or filed, it is an opportunity for dirt and bacteria to get trapped in them. Bacteria are passed from person to person through nails and result in spread of infection and illness. Similarly, when you bite your nails where dirt is lodged, it is an easy entry into your body for the germs which then cause nasty illnesses. That is why a good nail care regimen is a must.

The importance of a proper balanced diet cannot be emphasised enough if you care about the quality of your nails. Calcium and iron deficiency may cause irregular nail growth. The other important aspect is a regular massage. Blood flow around the nail bed brings nutrients that allow healthy nails to grow. Massaging with a hand lotion is an excellent way to stimulate blood flow into the nail bed. If your nails seem crumbly and whitish or yellowish, and look slightly separated from the nail bed,it could be a fungal infection. In such as case, consult your doctor. If you have loose skin down the side of the nail, trim it off with sharp scissors to reduce the risk of skin tearing or infections getting into the skin.

Basic nail care

  • Wash hands with a mild soap, using a nailbrush
  • Immerse hands in warm water for a few minutes to soak the cuticles
  • Push back the cuticles very gently if they look ragged
  • Trim all nails to the same length
  • File the ends to smoothen them off
  • If you have dry hands, apply some hand cream.

A weekly nail care programme

You can do a self-manicure once a week. Here is how:

  • First, remove all traces of old nail polish, if any. Moisten a cotton ball with nail polish remover and press over the nail for a few seconds to soften the polish. Firmly move the cotton from the base of the nail to the tip. Repeat until all nail polish is wiped off.
  • Shape the nail using an emery board. File from corner to centre. Filing in a "see-saw" motion will cause your nails to split.
  • Clean your fingers/nails. Soak hands in warm, soapy water for a few minutes to loosen the dirt. Use a toothbrush to gently scrub away stubborn dirt lodged under your nails.
  • Push back the cuticles. This is the skin that grows from the finger to the base of the nail.
  • Make sure nails are clean and dry, free of any oil or lotion before you apply polish.
  • Apply clear nail polish. This acts like a base coat. Allow the polish to dry completely or at least for a minute before you continue. It helps the polish stay longer.
  • Apply nail polish if you wish. In applying polish, you should be able to cover the nail in three strokes, one on each side and one in the middle. It is always advisable to wait until the first coat dries before applying the second. Darker shades take longer to dry. Fast-drying polish does not last as long. Apply a top coat of clear polish to prevent chipping of the coloured polish.
  • Moisturise hands and cuticles. This will prevent splitting of the nails and keep them flexible.

Filing your nails

It is time to file the nails when the white part of the nail tip has grown a quarter inch above the pink part of the nail. Filing nails before the nail is a quarter inch long can weaken the nail. Allowing the nail to grow to a length longer than the base pink nail length will cause them to break easily. When filing, go from the corner to the centre in one direction. Follow the groove on the side of your nail.

Problem of split nails

Some women are frustrated by nails that split and crack. Like body shape, skin tone and hair texture, our nails' ability to grow is largely hereditary. But there are things you can do to avoid much of the splitting.

  • Protect your nails from water. Water can actually dry out nails and cause them to split. It is a good idea to wear gloves while washing or doing dishes.
  • Make hand cream application a religious ritual. Look for a rich formula that will seal moisture into nails, making them stronger and more flexible. And don't forget to slather on cream every time you wash your hands.
  • Nail polish remover contains alcohol and other chemicals that make nails brittle. Limit their usage.
  • Keep nails to a manageable length. A quarter inch beyond the tip of your finger is perfect.

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