Just good-looking nails may not be good for your health.
Abu Dhabi -- Incorrect cutting of nails, lack of proper hygiene and improper nail care could lead to infections and other serious problems, experts have said.
"Incorrect cutting, often by salons making the nails triangular in shape ... cause in-growing toenails," said Susan Tulley, head of podiatry services at Healthpoint, a Mubadala healthcare facility.
She added that cutting cuticles cuts the protective barrier between nails and the main skin, allowing bacteria to enter the base of the nail and cause infection.
"Young people often tearing nails rather than cutting them creating a ragged edge (can also cause problems), when they play sports, the ragged edge can cut into the soft skin and this is painful," Tulley pointed out.
According to Nawal Jarges, operations manager of Tips and Toes, a ladies salon with branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, some of the most common nail concerns of their clients include ridges in fingernails, white spots and dryness on toes and the nail plate.
"We have clients who visit our shops with all of these issues; however the most reoccurring concern would have to be dry skin on the toes ... (which) is common among clients who over-cut into the sides of their nails. This causes the growth of a double layer on the edge of the nail. Dryness can also be caused by the use of harsh nail polish and nail polish removers."
"Ridges are common among clients, especially (among) older age and can sometimes be caused by trauma on the nail bed. White spots are usually an indication of calcium or zinc deficiency," Jarges said.
A small percentage of ladies at Tips and Toes also have issues with ingrown nails.
Ingrown is a common disorder that occurs when the edge of the toenail grows and curves down into the skin of the toe, particularly on the big toe. An ingrown toenail can be painful and could lead to infection.
"Ingrown is essentially when the nail plate grows irregularly. The main causes of ingrown include wearing shoes that crowd your toenails, cutting toenails too short or not straight across, injury of the toenail or having unusually curved toenails," Jarges explained.
Although removing the corner of the nail from the skin can sometimes cure the problem, persistent in-growing needs to be attended to by a doctor, podiatrist or a foot-care specialist. "Our best advice would be to not cut the nails too short and in some cases to consult a physician for more serious cases," Jarges suggested. Proper hygiene is essential to healthy foot and nails.
"Another main problem here is not drying between the toes after washing (either the daily shower or the pre-prayer wash). Water gets trapped between the toes, usually the two little toes, causing the skin to go white because it never dries. This then can be an ideal place for bacteria to accumulate and cause infection," Tulley said.
She advised cutting nails after a shower when the nail is soft, cutting nails straight across with nail clippers and "round off the corners but do not cut down the sides."
"File the nails to smooth them, push back cuticles gently when soft if you have to and never cut cuticles, after washing dry between the toes, if skin is dry (particularly at heels) use a basic foot cream and don't apply cream between the toes," Tulley recommended.
Jarges suggested visiting a salon twice a month for regular nail care.
"In order to maintain healthy nails, it's essential that you do not over cut the cuticles and dry skin, especially on the toenails. It's also very important to use nail conditioner and cuticle oil daily. Finally, clients should follow the nail technicians' recommendations for at-home maintenance."
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