It would appear we Aussies are rather good at taking care of our nail health, with the amount of dedicated salons and mass grieving that took place when they had to close in lockdown. But while we love using nails to impress or treat them to a mood pick-me-up, our state of everyday nail maintenance is a little on the lazy side. And so when COVID-19 left us to our own devices, endless hand washing, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser, took a massive toll on the health of our nails. And nails, after all, are skin.
“We just don’t give nails any priority unless the are in a problematic state of disrepair,” sighs Alison Bowhill-Hayes, Sally Hansen Nail Expert, Beauty Therapist & salon owner. “It isn’t considered part of the everyday or even weekly beauty regimen and it’s as if there needs to be a reason to go to the effort particularly now with our ‘new normal’ COVID-life”.
Alison admits however she has been busier with manicures and pedicures since reopening in June, attributing this to a large number of clients deciding to take a break from ‘fake’. This is indeed a good thing, as she explains that constantly covering your nails is not ideal and can create many nail health issues.
“Healthy nails look smooth, slightly pink with no torn edges, flaking, peeling or rough cuticles,” Alison explains of bare nails without any colour or top coat. “Length doesn’t matter but they should be filed neatly and look hydrated.
“To maintain healthy nails takes commitment and care. You must give them some love weekly and they need moisture, moisture, moisture!
“Apply a nail treatment often and don’t stop at just wearing a nail hardener, you need rich hand crème applied daily and you must massage the cuticles with oil so go for something that contains Vitamin E for moisturising benefits”
It is no wonder then that Alison’s mantra is “Healthy Cuticles = Healthy Nails! Clear to point out that trained Nail Experts never cut cuticles, so put down those clippers and scissors. “We groom them with cuticle pushers or orange sticks, but never trim or break the skin as it could cause bacteria to get into the healthy growth area and you’ll risk getting a painful infection” she says. A wise tip for those of us taking more time to care for our nail health in lockdown, as we set ourselves up with new tools and products and search for DIY nail tutorials online.
Alison explains that being in lockdown was a concern largely for those who got gel manicures/pedicures back-to-back. Removing gel nails however made clients more aware of how damaged the nails were and many have given up on these types of treatments, opting instead for natural nails or nail polish that helps to keep nails in good health. Yet probably the biggest downside to COVID-19 is the amount of extra cleaning we are all faced with and our hands in particular are suffering. We need to wash with soap, we need to wash for longer and we are reaching for hand sanitiser several times a day.
“The strong astringent and alcohol in hand sanitiser is extremely drying therefore creating lots of issues like cracked skin, peeling and flaking nail plates, hang nails and torn cuticles,
“The best thing we can do is replace this lost moisture so always keep a tube of rich hand crème at the ready. If you can’t apply it frequently then be sure to have a tube on the beside table and apply a good smothering before bed”.
And whether we’re back at the salon or treating ourselves at home, Alison suggests manicures need to be done every 4-6 weeks – fingernails grow twice as fast as toenails – and pedicures every 8-10 weeks. So create a regular beauty regimen for your nails alongside monthly facials and hair treatments because, after all, each play an important part in overall skin health.
“Treat nails like skin, you only get one set of them and they are jewels not tools. They are made of the same protein as skin, keratin, but the difference is nails are made of hard keratin, dead skin cells compacted tightly together. Suffering similar problems to skin, they need just as much love and care”.
Alison Bowhill-Hayes is Sally Hansen Nail Expert, Beauty Therapist & Owner of salon, Natural Beauty by Alison.