Like skin, nails need to be kept clean and moisturized in order to stay healthy. You should also be able to recognize certain changes in your nails, which may be an indicator of a more serious medical problem.
First understand your natural nails
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Nails grow out of deep folds in the skin of the fingers and toes. As epidermal cells below the nail root move up to the surface of the skin, they increase in number, and those closest to the nail root become flattened and pressed tightly together. Each cell is transformed into a thin plate; these plates are piled in layers to form the nail. As with hair, nails are formed by keratinization. When the nail cells accumulate, the nail is pushed forward.
The skin below the nail is called the matrix. The larger part of the nail, the nail plate, looks pink because of the network of tiny blood vessels in the underlying dermis. The whitish crescent-shaped area at the base of the nail is called the lunula.
Fingernails grow about three or four times as quickly as toenails. Like hair, nails grow more rapidly in summer than in winter. If a nail is torn off, it will regrow if the matrix isn’t severely injured. White spots on the nail are sometimes due to temporary changes in growth rate.
Acrylic nails: Can they harm your natural nails?
Some people who wear artificial, or acrylic, nails may notice a slight discoloration or coarsening of their natural nails. But a more serious nail problem resulting from acrylic nails is infection.
Sometimes a gap develops between the acrylic nail and the natural nail – for example, if the acrylic nail is bumped or jarred, it may separate from the natural nail. This gap provides a moist, warm environment in which bacteria and fungus can grow. If such an infection occurs, the natural nail may become thickened and discolored and should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
Rarely, a person may have an allergic reaction (contact dermatitis) to components of acrylic nails or the adhesives used to apply them. This usually results in some redness and peeling of the skin around the nail. If peeling is excessive or persists despite the use of moisturizer on the affected skin, consult a dermatologist.
The key to preventing infection and nail damage due to artificial nails is to choose a reputable, licensed nail salon.
Choosing a safe nail salon – Questions you should ask
Is the salon licensed? If the license isn’t posted, ask to see it.
Are the nail technicians licensed? If the licenses aren’t posted, ask to see them.
How are nail implements sanitized? Heat sterilization (autoclaving) is best. But chemical sterilization is also allowed.
Is there a pre-service scrub? Both the nail technician and the client should wash their hands with antimicrobial soap before nail work begins.
Is each customer given a fresh bowl of soapy water to soak their nails in and is a new nail file used for each customer?
Is the facility neat and clean?
Is there a strong smell of fumes? If there is, it’s a sign that the facility is poorly ventilated.
Common problems that develop with artificial nails:-
Bacterial infection. You may dislodge an artificial nail from the nail bed by bumping it or catching it. Infection can develop in the gap that forms between the two nails, especially if the artificial nail is reglued before a thorough cleaning.
Fungal nail infection. This can occur when moisture collects under acrylic nails. It is more common with nails that are left on for 3 months or longer.
An allergic skin reaction to the products used to apply the artificial nails. You may develop itching, redness, and swelling around the nail. The reaction may cause the natural nail to separate from the nail bed.
To help prevent problems with artificial nails:
*Test for a reaction to the artificial nail by having just one nail applied. Wait several days to see whether redness, itching, pain, or rash around or under the nail or separation of the nail from the nail bed develops.
*Do not apply an artificial nail if the nail or the skin around the nail looks irritated or infected.
*If an artificial nail does separate from the nail bed, dip your fingertip into rubbing alcohol for 15 seconds before reattaching the artificial nail. This will clean the space between the nails.
*Do not wear artificial nails for longer than 3 months at a time. Give your natural nails a month to rest before reapplying artificial nails.
Personal Hygiene Basics for nails:-
Personal hygiene is about keeping your body clean and healthy. Good personal hygiene can make you less likely to become sick. It also helps you look and feel your best.
Wash Your Hands Often
Always wash them after you use the toilet and before you eat or handle food. Wash more often if you are sick or are around a sick person.
When you wash, use plenty of soap and work up a good lather. Be sure to clean under your nails and between your fingers. Rinse well.
*If you have diabetes or bad circulation (vascular disease), check with your doctor about proper nail care.
*Keep your nails trimmed and filed. Clean underneath them daily.
*Cut toenails straight across. Trim them to just about the tip of your toe. Don’t cut the corners.
*If you are unable to care for your own nails, ask others for help.