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Tips for Naturally Healthy Nails

Richard S. Freeland

Nails are vital components of your anatomy that, if properly cared for, will serve you well. You can use them as precision instruments for picking out a splinter, scratching an itch or playing a guitar. Adorned with polish or accessorized with acrylics, they become fashion statements that showcase your creativity and enhance your public image. But for nails to serve their proper purpose, they must be strong and healthy.

Your nails are made from a protein called keratin. They emerge from the cuticle, located at the nail's base. As the nail cells grow outward towards the end of your finger or toe, they thicken and harden. The nail itself floats on the nail bed and is nourished with oxygen-rich blood delivered from a system of fine capillaries within the bed.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, nail problems make up about 10% of all dermatological conditions. But keeping your nails healthy and vital is easy and can be accomplished with just a little effort, as part of your regular personal hygiene regimen.

How do you recognize a healthy nail? Healthy nails are:

* strong, with no ridges or dents.
* consistent in colour, with no dark streaks or colour changes.
* free from spots and discoloration.
* evenly curved.

Symptoms of potential nail problems vary. Do your nails:

* show dark streaks under the nail itself?
* curl or change shape?
* have thickened or thinned excessively?
* have separated from the finger?
* show bleeding around the tip or edges?
* look red and swollen, or the skin around the nail hurts?

If these symptoms are present, consider talking with your doctor. Maybe you haven't cared for your nails properly and they've developed problems. More seriously, however, the symptoms could reflect an underlying problem with your overall health.

Proper Nail Care

Most nail problems can be nipped in the bud with proper care and/or treatment.

Moisture control

With prolonged exposure to water, nails soften and become weak. Excess moisture can also encourage an outbreak of bacteria or fungi. Use rubber gloves when washing dishes or cleaning, and cut soak baths short. For safe hydration, massage petroleum jelly, castor oil, olive oil or hand cream into your nails and cuticles several times a week, or when your nails feel dry.

Maintain your nails

Keep them short. Buy a good set of manicure clippers, and cut fingernails straight across before rounding their tips into a gentle curve. Toenails should be cut straight and left that way. Use a glass nail file to further shape your nails. Filing only in one direction instead of back and forth helps avoid breakage.

Take your vitamins

Biotin is a B vitamin that can work wonders for those suffering from brittle nails. Over 60% of volunteers who underwent controlled testing showed improvements. Biotin is best obtained from foods such as liver, fish, eggs, soybeans, whole grain, and mushrooms, among others, or through supplements. Multi-vitamins may contain from 30-300 micrograms of biotin, but it may take as much as 3,000 micrograms a day to reverse a brittle nail problem. Take high-level doses only after consulting your physician.

Get silicon

Finger and toe nails contain significant levels of silicon, necessary as a guard against infection. To provide your body with the silicon it needs to build healthy nails, substitute processed foods for a diet filled with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Avoid nail trauma

Damaged, stressed nails are open invitations for opportunistic germs and fungi. Don't use your nails as substitute tools for prying. Biting your nails or using a tool to push back or cut your cuticle is a definite no-no. And avoid pulling off hangnails, which could damage live tissue and lead to infection. To repair splits, apply special nail glue or a clear polish.

Dump the acetone or formaldehyde-based polish removers

These products suck the moisture right out of your nails. Use removers that are acetone and formaldehyde free, and limit these to once a week.

Professional Nail Care

Are professional manicures and pedicures really safe? They can be, if you use a little caution.

* Make sure your salon is properly licensed, and hires only licensed technicians.

* Don't let them remove your cuticles.

* Fungal infections cause about half of all nail problems. After each appointment, your technician should properly sterilize her tools. If you have lots of manicures or pedicures, consider bringing your own tools.

Nails are easy to care for. Healthy nails contribute to your overall well being as well as your feelings of self esteem. With a little conscientious effort, you can have glossy, lustrous nails for life.

Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2014-2021. Published with permission.

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