Fingernails and toenails are made of a protein called keratin. The exposed portion, the nail plate, is composed of dead, compacted, hardened keratin. The nail bed is the skin beneath the nail itself. The cuticle is the dead skin that overlaps your nail plate at the base to form a seal. The nail is formed beneath the cuticle at the matrix. Damage it and you risk infection or at the very least, discomfort.
To keep your hands healthy and happy this season here are a few tips to improve your nails and cuticles:
Cracked cuticles can be due to dehydration, dry skin conditions or a harsh environment. For example, immersing your hands in detergent water without washing up gloves or picking at cuticles can exacerbate this condition. If you notice that your cuticles are peeling, cracking or lifting at the sides, try the following remedies:
Moisturising: Use a good hand and nail moisturising cream daily and each time after you wash your hands. It is best to get a product containing Aloe Vera, Shea Butter, vitamin C or essential oils.
Vitamins: Take IPS Omega 3 or evening primrose oil supplements. The fatty acids assist in keeping your hair and skin moisturised and also lubricate and moisturise your nails.
Handwash: Make sure that you use a good hand wash without harmful chemicals. We are not always aware of what these hand washes contain, and this can dry out cuticles and take the natural oils out of our nails.
Push Back: Thick, creeping cuticles aren’t cute, but that doesn’t mean they need to be cut. Removing these built-in protective layers opens the door for bacteria to enter the nail bed, which could lead to irritation or infection. Instead, use an orange stick or a cuticle pusher to gently push back cuticles using a light, circular motion. If build-up gathers, carefully clip it away with a pair of cuticle clippers.
Overnight Remedy: If you still suffer from dry, peeling or cracking cuticles after extra moisturising, it may be time for an oil treatment. Once a week before bed, coat cuticles with a good natural cuticle oil, containing organic sesame oil and vitamin E. Cover up with a pair of hand gloves and sleep your way to super-quenched cuticles and softer hands!
Nail Polish: Colourful nails are nice, but many popular polishes are packed with chemicals that stain, weaken and dry not just your nails but your cuticles, too. If you can’t bear to be without gloss and shine, try a non-solvent-based polish for flair without formaldehyde, toluene or dangerous DPB.
Acetone: Acetone is the enemy when it comes to healthy cuticles and nails. When it’s time to take off nail colour, be sure to strip with something safe like a natural solution that’s not only acetone-free but enriched with aloe vera and vitamin E for extra cuticle coddling.
Buffing Your Nails: Don’t over-buff. Too much buffing can cause friction, build up heat and weaken nails. Always use a super-fine-grit nail buffer to lightly smooth ridges. Buff in an X pattern, lifting the buffer between strokes. If you wear polish, apply a ridge-filler base coat first.
Bad Habits: Sometimes we have that bad habit of biting your nails or using them as tools. Both activities will obviously weaken or break nails. If you get a deep nail tear, mend it temporarily with clear adhesive tape until it has a chance to grow out.
Keeping your fingernails looking their best doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does require some regular care. Cuticles should be moisturised and groomed, nails should be properly trimmed, filed and protected. Look after your fingertips this season and be sure to get those compliments!