What do you do to take care of your nails? Are they strong? Do they look healthy? Or do you notice dents, unusual color or ridges in your nails? Do they break easily?

Your fingernails are made up of layers of a protein known as keratin. Nails grow from the base of the nail just beneath the cuticle and when new cells grow, old cells become hard and get pushed out towards the tips of your fingers.

You can easily tell healthy fingernails from those that aren’t because they are smooth, have uniform color and don’t have any spots. There are times however when healthy nails develop spots or white lines due to injury but these usually grow out when your nails grow. Vertical ridges may also appear from the cuticle to the nail tip but these are often harmless and simply a sign of age.

What’s Not Normal?

But some nails are unhealthy and may indicate a health problem. If you notice any of the following, do make sure to check with your doctor:

  • Nail color changes, such as a dark color under the nail or discoloration of the whole nail.
  • Nail shape changes, such as curled or overly curved nails
  • Thickening or thinning of the nails
  • Separation of the nail from the skin
  • Bleeding
  • Redness, pain or swelling around the nails

Caring for Your Nails

Here are some simple guidelines to follow if you want your nails to look their best:

Do’s:

  • Keep your fingernails clean and dry. Doing so keeps bacteria and fungi away. If you’re washing the dishes and doing the laundry, it’s always advisable to wear gloves to avoid exposure to chemicals.
  • File and trim nails regularly. You can use clippers or manicure scissors. The best way to trim nails is to cut it straight across and then round the tips with a subtle curve.
  • Apply lotion. When using hand lotion, rub it into your cuticles and fingernails to keep them soft and moist.

Do not’s:

  • Never be abusive to your fingernails. That means you shouldn’t use them to pick, poke or pry things.
  • Never bite your fingernails. This habit can be damaging to the nail bed and even allow fungi and bacteria to creep inside and cause an infection.
  • Never attempt to pull off hangnails. Doing so may rip live tissue. What you can do is to clip off hangnails.
  • Never ignore nail problems. If it doesn’t go away on its own, consult your doctor for an evaluation.

How to Strengthen Weak Nails

Some people are unlucky enough to have weak fingernails. To protect your fingernails and prevent breakage, here are some of the things you need to do:

  • Always cut fingernails short. Attempting to have long nails will only be an exercise in futility.
  • Use moisturizer frequently. Apply moisturizer several times everyday including before bedtime. You can even wear cotton gloves at night to keep your hands moisturized.
  • Apply good quality nail polish. Most women don’t realize that nail polish can actually keep moisture in the fingernails and strengthen them.
  • Don’t keep using a nail polish remover. It’s advisable to keep your use of nail polish remover at a minimum, no more than once a week. Also, choose one that does not contain acetone.
  • Take biotin supplements. You may need to inquire about this with your doctor. Biotin has been shown to help keep weak nails strong and avoid breakage.

Pedicure and Manicure Reminders

Most women enjoy going to a salon for a manicure and pedicure. It’s sort of like a treat, after working so hard the entire week. But if you rely on mani and pedi to keep your nails healthy and attractive, you need to keep in mind a few things. First of all, make sure you go to a salon that is actually licensed and work with nail techs who are licensed by the state board.

And if you can help it, don’t let them remove your cuticles because that could very well lead to infection. If that can’t be helped, just see to it that the tools are sterilized and don’t expose your hands and nails to anything that could infect it.

Protecting the nails is important and following the tips we’ve provided above will help you do exactly that.