Proper Nail and Cuticle Care: What You’re Probably Doing Wrong

Published on: 10/01/2021 11:33 pm

Has all this handwashing got you thinking more about your nails and cuticle health? Makes sense. With so much focus on keeping our hands clean, many of us are noticing things we hadn’t before.

Even if you are someone who goes to the nail salon or paints their nails regularly, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re healthy. Though there’s nothing to say that proper nail care can’t also be fashionable. 

But before we launch into how to take care of your nails, here are a few fun facts that put their importance into perspective.

  • Your nails are made from the same material as your hair and the first layer of your skin called keratin.
  • It takes between four and six months to fully regrow your nail.
  • If you’re right-handed, the nails on that hand grow faster. (Same if you’re left-handed.)
  • Your nails can’t survive without blood.
  • You can get clues about your physical health from our nails, which should be spot-free, slightly pink, smoothe, non-peely, and mostly even in length.

Now on to basic fingernail care. Since they are made of keratin it’s probably no surprise that healthy nails and nail care looks a lot like healthy skin and hair care.

Wash and gently exfoliate your nails with a mild soap and an old toothbrush after you’ve erased leftover polish with a non-acetone remover.

Protect your nails by wearing gloves anytime you’re handling chemicals or doing dishes. Avoid digging under the nails with metal instruments, which can introduce bacteria.

Clip nails at least every two weeks in order to prevent chips, snags, and breakages.

Don’t bite your nails. Your mom was right. Biting your nails isn’t only a bad habit, it’s one that could make you sick, not to mention compromise the health of your fingertips. 

Clean your nail tools after every use. To keep your nails free of infection, they should be disinfected regularly.

Apply a base coat before polish. It helps strengthen the nail and protect it from being stained. Pro tip: you can apply a layer of gloss between each application to help protect tips and make them appear thicker.

Stay away from nail polishes with chemicals like dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, and toluene. They can dry out the nail bed and lead to brittle, split or cracked nails.

Limit UV exposure if you have acrylic nails or gel manicures. In other words, skip the drying device at the end of your nail appointment. If you can’t avoid it, wear an SPF of at least 30 and preferably 50.

Be careful when using press-on nails. The glue can be harsh on your actual nail. If you are going to use them, make sure your nail bed is completely dry before applying. 

Let nails rest between polishes. Your nails need to breathe. Make sure you give them a beat between salon trips and at-home painting sessions so they can literally catch their breath. 

Take your vitamins. You are what you eat–and so are your nails. Protein-rich foods like beans and fish as well as supplements like fish oil can help you maintain healthy nails and cuticles from the inside out.

Stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause your nails to break and peel. Drinking the recommended 8-10 cups a day will help them grow long and strong. 

Watch for infections. The signs of infection are clear if you know what you’re looking for. Just like the rest of your body, redness, swelling, and pain all mean it’s time for action. To avoid nail fungal infections, take these signs seriously and see your doctor if you suspect something is brewing. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you care for your nails?

Some form of daily nail care is recommended, and at least weekly is advised.

Why should nails be kept clean?

Dirt and bacteria can cause infections at the cuticle level and prevent your nails from getting the oxygen they need to grow properly.

Should I file my nails daily?

Nails can be filed as often as needed to buff out rough edges. Try using a glass (also called crystal) nail file to avoid snagging.

Is pushing your cuticle back healthy?

Pushing your cuticles back isn’t recommended as it protects the nail matrix from bacteria and infection. All you need to do is keep them moisturized.

Knowing how to get healthy cuticles and nails isn’t always intuitive. But with a little TLC and some help from the experts, you can have healthy hands that appear younger and more vibrant.

Gina Rivera

Gina Rivera

Beauty Icon and Expert

Gina Rivera skyrocketed to success when the company she founded in 2007, Phenix Salon Suites, became the fastest-growing salon suite company in the beauty industry. With more than 300 locations nationally and international expansion occurring in the UK, Entrepreneur Magazine named Phenix Salon Suites a Top 500 Franchise list seven years running.