My hands are always in plain sight, and so then is the state of my nail health. Tapping away at a keyboard they’re hard not to notice. But this year there have been so many other things to worry about. They’ve gradually weakened under the litres of hand sanitiser and despite best efforts, need a little expert help.
“The most common nail problem I see is splitting nails, usually as a result of ridges in the nail plate,” explains Alison Bowhill-Hayes, Sally Hansen Nail Expert, Beauty Therapist & salon owner. “Be sure to use smooth emery boards with a soft grit, and only file in one direction to help protect the split edge and prevent fraying”.
Soft flaky nails that break easily and look like they have peeling layers like a croissant are another common problem. “This is actually a nail that is suffering from dehydration,” Alison says, “This is from constantly being in water or frequently removing nail polish and using harsh chemicals. And often caused from over buffing and drilling on the nail plate for the application of gel-type polishes”.
Ridges or lines in the nails can also be frustrating and difficult to manage. Mostly they are caused from poor circulation along with ageing (yes nails get lines and wrinkles too) and medical conditions such as arthritis or heredity traits.
“Vitamin E is a powerful anti-oxidant and great healer for this type of damaged nail. It may also prevent the ridges from occurring as it stimulates good blood flow, cell turnover and improves circulation,” says Alison. “Apply every night by massaging in, or use as a hot oil treatment: heat the oil by standing it in a cup of warm water before applying for best results.
Ever had a manicure where you were asked to soak your nails in fingers bowls? Alison says that’a a major mistake “The nail plate holds about 8 per cent water so when you soak they’ll take up more, then they dry out and wham your paintwork shrinks!” explains Alison. “The lesson here is never manicure wet or damp nails. Never soak nails in finger bowls. I don’t use water in any of my manicures.”
The greatest crime in nail health however involves cuticles. An important part of nail anatomy, the cuticle is an important barrier that protects new nail growth under the matrix. It also prevents nails from becoming infected.
“We don’t cut live skin anywhere,” Alison says. “If we cut cuticles they will grow back thicker and eventually over-grow as the body tries to protect itself from this repeated trauma. Stop the cycle”.
Alison’s Top Tips for Nail Health:
- Take 10 minutes each week to file and trim nails.
- Have regular, professional manicures every 4-6 weeks, or a DIY manicure every month at home.
- Apply hand cream every night and always after washing up or doing house work.
- Wear gloves when doing all chores around the home and garden.
- Avoid nail enhancements such as acrylic or gel nails where possible.
- Instead of cutting cuticles, push them back. This is easier when skin is softened after a shower/bath.
- Moisturise! Nails and Cuticles can become dry very easily, so it’s important to keep them hydrated.
- DO NOT bite your nails or nibble/pick cuticles. Not only a source of infection, they can bleed and become inflamed and sore, causing nails to weaken and break.
Alison Bowhill-Hayes is Sally Hansen Nail Expert, Beauty Therapist & Owner of salon, Natural Beauty by Alison.