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Fingernails: Dos and Don’ts for Healthy Nails

We all want beautiful, healthy nails, but a string of acrylic nails, glue, acetone, and dip powder can all take a toll on your fingertips. Despite this, there’s good news: with a few lessons, the right tools, and some extra attention, you can have the manicure of your dreams without sacrificing your nails themselves. In fact, taking the right steps now can be an easy way to keep your nails looking better than ever!

Do: Learn about nail care.

Whether you have a standing appointment at your favorite salon or you swear by your collection of Essie and OPI, it’s essential that you learn about nail care and how best to treat your nails for optimal health. This includes every aspect of your nail kit, from cuticle oil to nail files, as well as the methods you use to care for your nails. When you set out to purchase new products, pay close attention to the product details, customer reviews, and even any professional insights you might have access to, whether that’s online or at the nail salon. Then, with the right accessories in tow, do research into how to care for your nails at home or manage their upkeep between salon visits.

Don’t: Bite or pick at your nails.

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Biting or picking at your nails (disorders referred to by medical professionals as onychophagia and onychotillomania, respectively) is, in and of itself, an unsanitary practice, but these practices have more serious risks than just germs. Biting or picking at your nails can cause damage to the nails, cuticles, and surrounding skin. Looking inward, these may also be signs of stress or anxiety, including mental health disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette syndrome, separation anxiety disorder, or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). As always, be sure to consult a professional if you believe one of these issues may be at play.

Do: Keep your nails dry and clean.

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Whether through biting your nails or other means, prolonged wetness or unsanitary conditions can lead to further problems with your nails. Most notably, this can lead to the growth of bacteria and an infection known as paronychia. While paronychia syndrome isn’t typically serious—it can usually be treated with antibiotics—it can cause plenty of discomfort in the meantime, including pain, tenderness, redness, swelling, and even an abscess or buildup of pus. This is a common risk with acrylic nails, in particular, but you should be sure to keep your nails dry and clean whenever possible whether you’re rocking a natural look or crafting something more intense.

Don’t: Ignore potential problems.

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Paronychia isn’t the only illness that manifests in the nails. On the contrary, it’s just the beginning—many different conditions can show symptoms in the nails, including nutritional deficiencies, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, Raynaud’s disease, measles, scarlet fever, lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, pulmonary diseases, mumps, AIDS, liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and even arsenic poisoning. Knowing the possible signs of issues like these can make it easier to catch them early on; look out for discoloration, thinning or brittleness, thickening, pitting, bleeding, swelling, pain, or redness, among others.

No matter what your mani-pedi preference is—or if you even add no embellishments at all—you can begin to take better care of your fingernails. At home or on the go, take the time to clean and dry your fingertips and study up on proper nail maintenance (reading this is a great start!). Be conscious of any unhealthy habits, like biting or picking your nails, and be aware of any symptoms or changes to your nails that could be signs of something more serious. And, whatever happens, be sure to style them in a way that’s right for you.

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