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Nail Care Myths and Facts
Dermatologist Separates Fact from Fiction to Help Nail a Perfect Ten
(press release from AAD)
NEW YORK (October 18, 2006) * When it comes to caring for
your nails, many of the tips that you've taken for granted over the years may in
fact be myths that can damage your nails.
Speaking today at the American Academy of Dermatology's (Academy) Academy,
dermatologist Marta J. VanBeek, MD, MPH, FAAD, assistant professor, department
of dermatology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa,
discussed the myths and facts of healthy nails.
"Healthy, strong nails are important not just for their looks but for performing
the tasks of daily life, like picking up objects," Dr. VanBeek said. "Most of
us don't realize the importance of our nails until we have a problem with them.
Misconceptions about nail care abound and it's important to know the facts so
that you can keep your nails in top shape."
Myth: To get stronger nails, use polishes that contain hardeners or
apply ingredients like gelatin.
Fact: While using polishes that contain strengthening ingredients may
help make nails less prone to splitting, they also increase nail stiffness,
causing the nails to break more frequently under trauma, because they become
hard and inflexible. While some people swear that immersing their nails in
gelatin makes them stronger, there is no scientific evidence that applying
gelatin has any benefit.
The best way to grow strong nails is to make sure that they are kept
moisturized. Because nails take a lot of abuse in daily life and are repeatedly
exposed to harsh detergents and chemicals that can dry them out, it's important
to keep them moisturized. Most nail polish removers are alcohol based, so it is
especially important to moisturize after removing nail polish.
"Moisturizers that contain petrolatum or mineral oil to protect against
evaporation are particularly good," Dr. 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 is never a good
idea and groom them by pushing them back. However, 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 the
paronychium, or skin fold around the nail, to bacteria and result in infection,"
Dr. VanBeek said.
Myth: Nail salons are regularly inspected so I don't have to worry
Fact: Most nail salons take sanitation very seriously and follow
strict cleanliness and 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. "People who get frequent manicures and
pedicures may want to purchase their own tools and implements to be used at the
salon in order to protect against infection."
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. "People with brittle nails
should minimize the amount of trauma associated with removing or changing
artificial nails. Chemicals used to dissolve the bond between artificial nails
and the nail plate can dry out the nail and damage the nail if used too
frequently. For people with healthy nails, artificial nails can be fine as long
as they are not worn continuously."
Because the substances used in artificial nails can cause an allergic reaction
in some people, Dr. VanBeek recommends that you make sure that you know what
products are used so that you can tell your dermatologist if you do develop a
rash or other reaction.
Myth: Always wearing dark nail polish can discolor your nails.
Fact: This is not a myth—it's true. For some people who use darker
shades of nail polish on their fingers and toes, removing the color may reveal
yellowed, discolored nails.
"Darker colored polish, like blue, brown, burgundy and black, can temporarily
stain the nail plate. The staining will resolve over several weeks if the same
color of polish is not reapplied," said Dr. VanBeek. "The staining is neither
bad nor harmful for your nails."
To prevent this from happening to unblemished nails, apply an extra layer of
base coat first before using the nail color.
Myth: Fungal infections of the nail can be effectively treated with
Fact: Despite the wealth of over-the-counter products available that
claim to treat fungal nail infections, the only way to cure an infection is to
see a dermatologist.
"Over-the-counter topical medications don't penetrate the nail and therefore,
aren't as effective as oral prescription medications," Dr. VanBeek said. "A
dermatologist can prescribe the proper medication to eradicate the infection in
One of the best ways to deal with fungal nail infections is to prevent them from
happening. Since nail fungus thrives in warm, damp environments, Dr. VanBeek recommends
that you keep your feet clean and dry, refrain from sharing towels and wear
sandals in public shower areas.
Myth: Nail problems can be cleared up quickly.
Fact: Because nails grow slowly—about 0.1 mm a day, replacing the
damaged or diseased nail may take many months. It's important that you follow
the instructions for the medications or treatment that you are given carefully
to ensure that the new nail growth is healthy.
"When it comes to nails, there is no real quick fix so you have to be patient,"
Dr. VanBeek. "Having beautiful nails is less a matter of luck and more a matter
of caring for them correctly. Make sure that you pay attention to them and have
a dermatologist look at any unusual problems because early treatment can prevent
Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology
(Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most
representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than
15,000 dermatologists worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the
diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and
nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research
in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of
healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at
1-888-462-DERM (3376) or www.aad.org
Knowledge is Power.
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