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Tips for strong, healthy nails

Having strong, healthy nails can be a great confidence boost. Here are some do’s and don’ts for keeping your finger and toenails clean and well-groomed.

Strong, healthy nails are beautiful nails. Healthy nails are smooth, free of ridges and discolorations, with cuticles intact. Here are easy, inexpensive tips for maintaining strong and well-manicured nails without a trip to the salon.

Keep your nails clean and dry. When washing your hands, don’t forget to gently scrub the surface and undersides of your nails with soap and water. It helps get rid of bacteria that might live there and cause an infection.

Be sure to dry your hands thoroughly after washing them because your nails can become brittle if they’re constantly exposed to water. Wearing gloves when doing household activities like washing dishes can help.

Moisturize your nails. This prevents them from chipping and splitting. Handwashing is great — for your general health and your nail health — but it can dry out your hands and strip your nails of the natural oils that keep them healthy. Hand sanitizers are also drying due to the alcohol content, so be sure to moisturize well after using it.

When moisturizing, rub a little bit of the lotion on your nails and cuticles. You can even rub petroleum jelly on your cuticles to keep them from getting flaky and dry.

Trim your nails regularly and carefully. There are lots of do’s and don’ts when it comes to trimming your nails. First, make sure the tools that you use have been cleaned properly. Then, trim your nails regularly to keep them at a manageable length. The longer your nails are, the more likely they are to snag or break.

Trim your nails straight across and gently round the edges. Incorrect trimming can lead to ingrown nails, especially on your toenails, which are painful and prone to infection.

Soaking your toenails before trimming can help make them more pliable and easier to cut. You can make a simple foot bath at home: just add a teaspoon of salt to warm water. This will also hydrate and soothe your feet.

Rock hard nails are not necessarily strong nails. Overly hard nails can be brittle and prone to breakage. Nails should be flexible, and most people don’t need nail hardeners unless your nails are really fragile.

Care for your cuticles. Cuticles are the thin, clear layer of dead skin at the base of our nails. It might be tempting to push them back or cut them off when you’re grooming your nails, but doing so actually makes your nails susceptible to infection.

Cuticles act as a barrier that protects your nails from bacteria and fungi as they grow out, so keeping them intact keeps your nails protected. Even if you’re at the salon, you can request that they leave your cuticles alone.

Don’t overdo the manis and pedis. A manicure can help your nails look clean and fresh but getting them too often can weaken nails and increase your chances of infection.

When you go, there are precautions you can take. Be sure that your nail salon is state licensed. Don’t be afraid to ask about their sanitization practices, and you can even bring your own nail tools to reduce the risk of infection.

Give your nails the occasional break from nail extensions, acrylics, gels and even simple coats of nail polish. Your nails need time to breathe. When removing polish, try acetone-free removers as these are less harsh and less damaging to your nails. If you’re big on artificial nails, the American Academy of Dermatology Association provides these tips on how you can reduce damage when you wear them.

Be gentle with your nails. If you’re using a pointed tool to clean your nails, don’t press too hard. Aggressive cleaning can damage the underside of your nails and create a gap where bacteria can thrive. Instead, you can try using a nail brush to scrub your nails clean.

When using nail files or emery boards, file evenly and slowly in one direction instead of sawing back and forth. This will help prevent your nails from chipping and breaking in the process.

Choose your nail files wisely. An emery board has a rough surface that can damage and weaken your nails even as it smoothes the edges. Because they’re often made from cardboard, they can’t be washed. Metal and glass nail files are less harsh than emery boards, and can be scrubbed clean with soap and water.

Nail files aren’t the only tools that should be cleaned. Wash your nail clippers and scissors with soap and water and allow them to dry completely before use.

Try biotin supplements. Biotin is a type of B-vitamin that can strengthen your nails and hair. Some studies show that biotin may improve thickness and hardness of brittle nails. However, you can also get sufficient biotin with a healthy, balanced diet. Foods like organ meats, eggs, and fish such as salmon contain biotin. Check with your doctor to see if supplements are right for you.

Don’t forget to take care of your feet! For example, make sure your shoes fit right. There should be about a half-inch of wiggle room for your toes. If you can, alternate the shoes you wear daily, and avoid walking around in public places barefoot. A pair of flip flops in a public shower or pool is always a good idea to prevent fungal toenail infections.

In general, avoid things that can damage your nails, like nail-biting and pulling on your hangnails (you should clip them instead). Try not to use your nails as tools to pry things open or scrape at something, as this can weaken your nails.

Lastly, look out for the signs of a nail infection. Discoloration, pain, redness, swelling, or pus around your cuticles and nearby skin can be signs of a nail infection. If you notice these or any other abnormalities around your nails, it might be time to consult a doctor if symptoms persist. Fungal nail infections, or onychomycosis, happen to about 10 percent of people and are more common in older people.

Alpha offers treatment for three types of nail infections: bacterial infections, fungal infections, and periungual warts. Get started with us today and we’ll have you treated in no time. You’ll complete an online consultation, then we’ll come up with a treatment plan and prescribe medication if needed. As always, medication is mailed straight to your door with free shipping.

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Alpha Medical is a telemedicine company that provides instant access to doctors who can diagnose and treat over 70% of conditions online, including mental health, primary care, skin & hair, and urgent care.

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