Saturday, July 8, 2006

Don’t fail your nails
Radhika Ravi

Nails demand care
Nails demand care

It is a universal truth — doctors around the word say it — that nails are one of the body’s main indicators of health. But today, manicurists can let your nails look like a million bucks and, hence, send you mixed signals about whether your health is really fabulous or is it that new expensive French manicure at work? It is time you sat up and took a good long look at those fingers. Here’s a little crash course.

Your nails are made up of layers of keratin which also make up skin and nails.

Nail plate is the part of your nail that’s the most visible — what you see when you look at your fingernails.

Nail fold is the skin that frames each of your nail on three sides.

Nail bed is the skin beneath the nail plate.

Cuticle is the tissue that overlaps your nail plate at the base of your nail

Lunula is the whitish, half-moon shape at the base of your nail.

So now that you’ve made friends with your fingertips, how are you going to take care of them? Many people believe that the body can naturally take care of nails. True. But every part of your anatomy can do with some help.

Protect your nails whenever you’re spring-cleaning. Wear cotton –lined rubber gloves when using soap and water for prolonged periods or when using harsh chemicals.

Your nails are not substitutes for your toolbox. Don’t use them to pick and poke into things.

Nail biting and picking are strict no-nos. These types of habits can damage the nail bed. Infections are notoriously easy to catch and even a small cut along your nails can cause serious pain. Because your nails grow slowly, an injured nail retains signs of an injury for several months.

Your nails worship moisturisers. Whenever you’re creaming your hands, rub some lotion into your nails and its edges in order to give it a healthy shine and prevent them from becoming brittle.

Weak fingernails, which easily break or crack, are a real curse to tackle. If you have weak fingernails, you have an added responsibility towards your fingers. Ideal nails are short, square shaped and slightly rounded on top. Soaking or a bath softens your nails and makes them easier to cut without traumatising them.

Weak fingernails are catered for with special hand and nail creams. Give your nails a moisturising session every night and, if necessary, sleep with cotton gloves that allow your hands to absorb all the cream.

Nail hardeners are a common nail product and many are effective as a normal coat or as a base or top layer with your usual nail polish — but avoid products containing toluene sulphonamide or formaldehyde. These chemicals can cause redness or irritate the skin.

Nail polish removers with acetone dry out your nails faster than anything else. If you have chipped nail polish, repair splits or tears with nail glue or clear polish.

The use of a wooden pick under the nails when getting a “French manicure,’ can contribute to fungal infections and loss of the nail. Chemicals such as toluene, phthalates, camphor and formaldehyde, which are used to give manicure finishing touches, are equally dangerous. Many of these components can cause allergic reactions, and not just involving the nails. For example, eyelid dermatitis can result when someone touches or rubs her eyes with polished nails, transferring the toluene-sulphonamide-formaldehyde resin in the polish to highly sensitive skin.

So if you ever see your nails going yellow, cracked or brittle, take action immediately. Many ailments express themselves through symptoms in your fingers. Yellow nails are known to show respiratory tract diseases or simply an overdose of nail products. White nails are surprisingly dangerous. Kidney disease, gout or even poisoning may be behind such nails. So don’t get complacent when you see white nails. You have a duty towards your nails, don’t fail them. — MF