Our nails often provide a window into our general state of health. Nail changes such as discoloration, thickening, deformities, skin swelling around the nails, bleeding, discharge and pain can all be signs of nail disease. While fungal infections account for about half of all nail disorders, the above mentioned nail changes can also be signs of systemic disease including liver and kidney disease, heart and lung conditions, anemia and diabetes. If you are experiencing any of these nail changes, Skin & Beauty Center recommends consulting with one of our board-certified dermatologists for successful diagnosis and treatment of your nail disorder.
We can optimize the health of our nails by following a number of simple nail care steps on a routine basis. Keeping nails clean and dry will keep bacteria and fungi from collecting under the nails. To keep nails strong and avoid ingrown nails we recommend cutting your nails straight across and rounded slightly in the center. It is important to periodically get new nail clippers as dullness of clippers over time make it difficult to properly cut one’s nails. For those with thicker nails it helps to soak hands or feet in warm salt water for 5 to 10 minutes followed by application of a urea or lactic acid cream (available over the counter) which in turns softens up the nails making trimming easier. Avoiding ill-fitting or tight shoes is also important in order to avoid ingrown nails and other nail deformities. Nail biting should be avoided as this can lead to transfer of bacteria between fingers and mouth and it will also damage the skin around the nails making them prone to infections. Frequent use of nail polish removers, hand washing, washing dishes without gloves or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers should all be minimized, as these practices lead to weakening and drying of the nails. Moisturizing the nails on a routine basis using a cuticle oil and/or nail conditioner, especially after removing nail polish, is a highly recommended practice.
Finally, if you visit nail salons for your nail care make sure to follow these safety recommendations:
- insure the salon, manicure stations, foot baths and the tools are clean and technicians wash their hands in between clients
- consider bringing your own tools to the salon if you get frequent manicures and pedicures
- ask the technician not to cut or push back your cuticle as this may predispose to an infection
- do not shave your legs for at least 24 hours prior to pedicures to prevent skin infections for accidental nicking. Skin & Beauty Center recommends that you consult with one of our board-certified dermatologists if you develop any itching, burning, or sign of an allergic reaction to a nail cosmetic product.
Daniel Navi, MD, FAAD