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Fingernail myths that keep you from looking your best

By Staff Report -   Oct 26, 2006

SQUEAKY-CLEAN salons like Rose’s Nails in Luling can help you care for nails, say experts. Pictured: Manager Kim Nguyen.
SQUEAKY-CLEAN salons like Rose’s Nails in Luling can help you care for nails, say experts. Pictured: Manager Kim Nguyen.

BOUTTE - You can grow and take advantage of strong, beautiful nails with tips from a dermatologist who says common misconceptions and “old wives’ tales” may be doing you more harm than good.

And when you abuse your nails with chemicals and synthetic hardening agents, says the expert, you can make your fingers “sick.”

“Healthy, strong nails are important not just for their looks but for performing the tasks of daily life, like picking things up,” says Marta VanBeek, assistant professor, department of dermatology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa.

“Misconceptions about nail care abound and it’s important to know the facts so that you can keep your nails in top shape.”

Here, in another Herald-Guide Health Watch exclusive, are VanBeek’s myths and facts:

Myth: To get stronger nails, use polishes that contain hardeners or apply ingredients like gelatin.

Fact: Polishes that contain strengthening ingredients may help make nails less prone to splitting, but they also increase nail stiffness, causing the nails to break.
The best way to grow strong nails is to make sure that they are kept moisturized.

“Moisturizers that contain petrolatum or mineral oil to protect against evaporation are particularly good,” VanBeek noted. “No special products are necessary as most hand creams contain one of these ingredients.”


Myth: It’s important to push your cuticles back to keep them healthy and help your nails grow.

Fact: Most people are aware that cutting the cuticle isn’t a good idea and groom them by pushing them back. But dermatologists recommend against this as well because it can create problems.

“The cuticle is a barrier that protects the skin and the delicate nail matrix, or ‘root’ of the nail. Pushing back on the cuticle can injure it and expose it to bacteria and result in infection,” Dr. VanBeek said.

Myth: Nail salons are regularly inspected so I don’t have to worry about safety.


Fact: Most nail salons take sanitation seriously and follow strict disinfection guidelines, but consumers should not be afraid to ask how implements are cleaned.

“Look at the salon with cleanliness in mind and ask yourself these questions: Are the stations clean? Does the nail technician wash her hands between clients? Are there dirty implements lying around? If the salon does not appear clean, then move on,” said Dr. VanBeek.

In addition to making sure that the implements used are sterilized properly, check that any foot baths that are used for pedicures are thoroughly disinfected before you use them. If they are improperly cleaned, they can harbor bacteria and fungus which can lead to serious infections.


Myth: Artificial nails are the best solution for problem nails.

Fact: Covering up nail problems will not make them go away and may even make them worse. While artificial nails are not always a bad thing, they are not recommended for people who are prone to fungal infections or have brittle nails because they can actually make the condition worse.

“Artificial nails can trap moisture, providing an excellent environment for bacteria and fungus to grow,” Dr. VanBeek said.

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