Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Nail Care

For a summary of Tip Tuesday, see here.

Nails have been on my mind lately, since I've been testing and wearing a lot of nail polish.  My nails are generally weak, peel-prone, and soft, and my cuticles are often dry and I get lots of hangnails.  This post is as much for my benefit as for yours, though I certainly hope you find it helpful!  (Psst: leave a comment here or on the TT summary page about what other topics you'd like to see covered!)

Nails are made from keratin, a protein, and protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, and vitamin C are all essential to the sustainment of healthy nails and cuticles (the skin surrounding the nail).  Hangnails, a frequent occurrence in my life, are caused by deficiencies in vitamin C and folic acid and/or insufficient moisturizing.  Ridged nails are caused by insufficient vitamin A and B; the lack of the same, calcium, or vitamin D can cause dry and brittle nails; and iron deficiency can lead to dry, brittle, and ridged nails.  One non-directly-nail-related thing to note is that blue or purple nail beds can be an indication of insufficient oxygen circulation (as from anemia; this happened to me in high school when my spleen was taking bites out of my blood cells, but my nail beds are now the normal pink, phewf!).  So the first step to healthy nails and cuticles is making sure you get enough of those nutrients, whether through your diet or from vitamin supplements.  Sometimes, though, you don't have the patience to wait for new, healthy nails to grow in, and fortunately for you (and me), there are many, many products out there to help.  Recommendation Thursday this week will focus on exactly what products are useful, so you can look forward to that!

Besides making sure your nutrition is up to par, you should also try and have consistently moisturized hands.  Make sure to rub your lotion around your nails and cuticles to help prevent dryness and hangnails.  Contrary to the name, hangnails are not actually nail––they're dry, hardened skin.  You should try not to pull them out by the root and instead snip them with nail scissors.  If you succumb to the urge to tear them out (we've all been there), dab some neosporin on to prevent infection.  Then make sure to moisturize thoroughly to prevent it from happening again (a tip I could bear to remember myself)!

Nails grow (duh, Amy, thanks for pointing out the obvious), which means, unless you want to be like this woman, they need to be occasionally trimmed or filed.  Nail clippers or scissors are good for when your nails get a lot too long, whereas nail files are best for more frequent nail length maintenance and evening the edges out.  Try to avoid using the rougher side of a nail file, because it makes it likelier for your nail to crack and split, and even when using the finer grained side, only file your nail in one direction (I do inward, towards my thumb) to minimize breakage.

Ingrown nails, most frequently occurring on toenails, are when the edge of the nail grows into the skin surrounding the nail bed (or, conversely, when the toe skin overgrows around the nail).  Many things can cause ingrown toenails, including too-tight shoes, damp/sweaty footwear, bacterial infections, genetic predisposition, and convex nails.  I seem to have a combination of the latter two, and have to periodically trim the sides of my big toe nails so that they don't get ensconced in the surrounding skin (disgusting, I know).  The best way for preventing ingrown toenails is by avoiding the environmental factors that cause it, making sure to clean your feet, and cutting your nails straight across rather than rounded (you shouldn't have your nail end below where the skin/cuticle ends).  If you're one of the unlucky ones, like me, with convex nails and/or a genetic tendency towards ingrowns, you should avoid the circumstances that encourage ingrown toenails, and if need be, there are surgical options (see here for revolting pictures and descriptions of the operations).  It's pretty likely I'll have to have surgery on mine someday, but hopefully no time soon!

Nail polish remover is known for being really hard on your hands, so always be sure to moisturize heavily after taking it off.  I like to wait a day or two between removal and reapplication, just to give my hands and nails a chance to rebalance.  Base coat is good for extending the wear of your polish and for preventing polish stains, as darker polishes often leave behind an ugly tint after removal.  Soaking in lemon juice and using a buffing block can help remove stains, but prevention is the best cure, so always wear at least one coat of base to protect your nails.

The lovely ladies from the Beauty Brains did a post on nail hardeners and hydrators that is very informative and interesting, and I definitely suggest going there and giving it a read!

Okay then!  I think that's all for today.  Let me know if you have any further questions or suggestions for future installments!
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