As if nail polish wasn’t enough, the fairer sex these days is also indulging in fancy nail art, extensions, even nail piercing, all to look in sync with times. But even though nails are dead cells, excessive use of cosmetics affects them. Just like any other part of the body, nails can also be affected by germs and infections. And, keeping your cuticles intact is the first step towards keeping your nails healthy. Cuticles protect your nails and the surrounding skin from infection. When you trim your cuticles, it’s easier for bacteria and other germs to get inside your body and cause an infection. And mind you, nail infections can take pretty long to clear.
Dermatologists advise against too much use of nail paints and removers. “The solvents in polish remover, especially acetone, dry out nails and cuticles. If you use polish remover frequently, it can create an uneven surface, making your nail more prone to peeling, splitting, and breaking. The alcohol in hand sanitisers also make nails weak and dry,” says Dermatologist and Aesthetic Surgeon Dr Syed Nazim Hussain, Royal Lush Clinic, Delhi. “When you go for a manicure or pedicure at a nail salon, be sure to ask how the staff disinfects their tools and how often they do it. Tools can spread fungal infections from person to person if they’re not sanitised,” he adds.
Listed here are five common issues related to nail health:
If your nails lose their original colour, turn yellow or greenish-black, it is a sure shot sign of fungal infection. In some cases nails having fungal infection start to lift up from the nail bed and become loose. The bad news is, fungal infection is contagious but the good news is, it is treatable. Most of the time, fungus mostly affect the toenails in cases where feet remain wet most of the time, but it can happen to hand nails as well. “It’s very common among people over 60, while only 1 of 5 younger adults are affected,” says Dr Hussain.
Remedy: Wear rubber/plastic gloves while washing and cleaning. Keep your feet dry and properly covered.
Dry and brittle nails
Though nails turn hard and brittle as one grows older, this is the most common problem seen in the younger population.
Reason: Lack of calcium in body coupled with excessive use of nail polish and nail extensions. “The process of nail extension involves a lot of buffing, scrubbing and polishing and all of this make the nails brittle and lose their natural strength,” says Dr Hussain. “Further, nail extensions don’t allow the natural bed of the nail to breathe and make them more susceptible to fungal infections and breakage,” he adds.
Remedy: Take care of your diet, eat calcium-rich food and sit under sun for some time every morning. Avoid too much use of cosmetic products and procedures.
Ridges on the nails
Ridges can be horizontal or vertical, and usually indicate towards poor nutrition, mainly a lack of Vitamin A. Dry skin and eczema can also cause ridges on nails.
Remedy: Eat protein-rich foods and include lots of red colour in your diet. You must also keep your body hydrated.
This mostly happens in toenails. There could be many reasons, like angling the sides of the nail while cutting that can make nail to grow into skin; wearing tight and tapered footwear – this gets more pronounced if the heels are high as high heels put a lot of pressure on toes; some people have naturally curved toenails and in some cases it is the result of an injury. Any which way it happens, it can be quite painful and often needs medical attention.
Remedy: Do not wear high and pointed heels. Protect your feet from injury.
Dull, discoloured nails
Healthy nails have a shine. So, if your nails look dull and discoloured it means you are using too much nail paints, nail art and nail extensions, say dermatologists.
Remedy: Go slow on nail polish. Before applying nail polish, put on a base coat, especially if you are putting on dark colour like red or orange. And after you remove nail paint wash your nails and soak them in warm water.
(Caution: Visit a dermatologist if your nails change their colour, swell, or cause pain, more so if you have diabetes, for this may be pointing towards a more serious issue.)