The texture, shape and length of your nails say a lot about your health. Plus, your nails highlight your basic hygiene habits and personal sense of style. This is why nail care is important.
Everyone should take proper care of their nails, just as they take care of their skin, hair and teeth. No personal grooming routine should be considered complete without nail care. Otherwise, you’re at an increased risk of nail problems like ingrown nails and fungal infections.
Most nail disorders are due to fungal infections, which can cause the nails to become thick, discolored and brittle.
Preventing a toenail fungus may not seem important to you, but perhaps it should be. Fungi are nearly everywhere in our environment, and it is relatively easy to develop a fungal infection.
Getting rid of a toenail fungal infection can be difficult. It can be resistant to treatment, which can take months. Prevention is truly your best bet.
Fortunately, it’s easy to keep your nails healthy and prevent such infections.
Here are the top 10 tips to help prevent a nail infection.
1. Keep Your Nails Clean and Dry
Healthy feet and nails start with good hygiene.
Soak your nails in warm soapy water for 10 minutes, then thoroughly clean and scrub your nails using a soft toothbrush, especially your toenails. Make sure no dirt or dust is stuck in and around your nails. This will clean your nails and also prevent any type of infection due to germs and dirt accumulation.
Afterward, dry your nails as well as between each of your toes. Any excess moisture between the toes can create a favorable environment for a fungal infection to begin. Fungal organisms love moisture, so it will be more difficult for them to thrive without any wetness.
Along with daily washing, scrubbing your feet and heels once a week is important. Regular exfoliation will keep your feet soft and smooth as well as reduce the risk of developing corns or calluses.
The dead skin around the nails can be removed with a pumice stone once a week.
2. Cut Your Nails Properly
To help prevent a nail infection, it is important to cut your nails properly.
Always cut your nails straight across using clean nail clippers. You can use a nail file to gently smooth out any sharp edges afterward.
Never curve the corners of your nails as it can cause painful, ingrown nails. At the same time, avoid trimming your nails too close to the skin.
Also, when toenails are cut too short, shoes will put more pressure on the nails, causing a lot of pain.
Those who have poor blood flow to the feet should see a podiatrist to have their nails trimmed.
3. Wear Proper Footwear
Properly fitting footwear is essential to reduce the risk of a toenail fungus as well as ingrown nails. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends wearing shoes with a wide toe box that won’t cramp your toes. Shoes that are too small or too big should be avoided.
If your shoes are pinching your toes or placing pressure on the sides of your toes, discard them or donate them to a charity.
Along with the size, choose breathable footwear so that more air can circulate around your feet. This will help keep your feet drier and less susceptible to toenail fungus. Shoes made of breathable materials like leather or canvas are highly recommended.
Never wear shoes that are still damp from yesterday’s sweaty workout, as it will only increase your risk of a toenail fungal infection. Always have a few good pairs of shoes and rotate them.
Just like shoes, choose socks that help absorb sweat, like those made from cotton. Make sure you change your socks frequently.
4. Protect Your Nails in Public Areas
Public places, such as gyms, pools or salons, tend to be breeding grounds for fungi that can lead to infections. Hence, it is important to protect your nails and feet in such public places.
Avoid going barefoot at the gym, in locker rooms and at public pools. If shoes or socks are not allowed, wear your own shower shoes.
In a moist environment, always wear your flip-flops or sandals. It is always a good idea to keep a clean pair in your car for emergencies.
Similarly, salons can be a hotbed for fungus, so before trying a salon for a manicure or pedicure, ask them what precautions they take to prevent the spread of nail fungi.
5. Never Cut or Manipulate Your Cuticles
Cuticles are essential scar tissue and provide protection against bacteria entering through the nail bed. Hence, you must not snip the cuticles away, as it will make you more susceptible to infections, fungi and seriously painful hangnails.
In addition, if you cut the cuticles, they have an increased tendency to split off. While cutting cuticles causes harm, even pushing them back too hard can cause problems.
To deal with painful cuticles, soak your hand in warm water for 10 minutes. Pat dry, then apply some olive or coconut oil and massage gently for 5 minutes. Finally, gently push the cuticles back with an orangewood stick.
You can also buy cuticle oil, which you can easily find in the market.
6. Moisturize Your Nails and Cuticles
It is also important to keep your nails and cuticles properly moisturized.
Regularly applying moisturizer on the nails helps them grow strong and healthy. It also protects your nails from breaking, chipping, cracking and splitting due to a lack of moisture. Even your cuticles will start looking better.
When applying a moisturizer, make sure to rub it all over the top and bottom of your feet, including your toes.
Olive oil is one of the best moisturizers for healthy nails. For best results, apply it on your nails and cuticles before going to bed to help the oil penetrate deep into the skin. The oil also helps repair damage and soften the nails and cuticles, which in turn leads to strong and healthy nails.
Along with olive oil, coconut oil is another good option to try.
7. Don’t Do Manicures or Pedicures Often
Getting a manicure or pedicure done once a month is good for your nail health. But getting them done more often, especially in a salon, can lead to dry and brittle nails.
In fact, frequent manicures can lead to chronic nail bed infections and puffy, reddened areas around the base of the nails.
This is because exposure to more chemicals and harsher ingredients used in salons can be bad for nail health.
It is better to do manicures and pedicures at home. This will definitely cut down on the risk of infections and help ensure a healthier experience.
8. Stop Overwashing Your Hands and Feet
While it is healthy to wash your hands and feet to keep them clean, overdoing it is not at all recommended.
Overwashing can make you more prone to infection. Also, the nails can become brittle and break easily.
If you are in a profession where frequent hand washing is a must, then you should ensure that you dry them properly. Also, apply a moisturizer as often as possible and rub a little extra around the cuticles several times a day.
Also, while doing household chores like laundry or washing dishes, wear gloves whenever possible. This will help minimize your hands’ contact with harsh chemicals found in laundry detergents and dish washing liquids.
9. Avoid Hiding “Ugly” Nails with Polish
A discolored, thickened, cracked or crumbling nail is an indication of a nail fungus. Applying colored nail polish to such nails will only make the problem worse. In fact, when having these signs, you should see a doctor. However, you may use antifungal nail lacquer or simply colorless nail polish as they contain growth-inhibiting and antifungal chemicals.
Also, in general, you should not apply nail polish often. It can lead to nail discoloration. From time to time, take a break from polish so that your nails can breathe.
Try to stay away from acrylic nails. The chemicals used to apply acrylic nails are very unhealthy, and prolonged use can result in complete nail loss by destruction of the nail matrix. In fact, some of the chemicals like resins and formaldehyde are known to cause cancer.
Along with acrylic nails, it is important to say no to acetone-based polish removers. This type of nail polish remover can strip the nails, causing them to become brittle. Instead, opt for oil-based nail polish removers. They are less harmful to your nails.
10. Examine Your Nails Regularly
Prevention is always better than the cure, and this is applicable to your nail health, too.
Properly examine your toenails and fingernails at least once a week while taking a bath or shower. Any kind of nail discoloration could indicate a nail fungus.
While drying off your feet, take a good look at the soles for signs of scaling or peeling skin in between the toe areas. These are also early signs of a nail infection.
Those who are diabetic should inspect their feet every few days, since diabetes leads to higher risk of foot sores and infections.
If you notice any abnormality in the nails or the skin around the nails, such as pain, redness, swelling, or discoloration that persists, consult a doctor.
- Keep your nail care items – nail clippers, home pedicure tools, etc. – hygienic and disinfected.
- Nail trauma can lead to the development of an infection, so be careful when going in a crowded place.
- A weakened immune system makes you more susceptible to fungal infections. Hence, make sure to eat healthy to keep your immune system strong.
- Spray your shoes with an antibacterial spray, especially if you’ve worn them without socks.
- Wash socks in hot water with bleach to kill any fungi and other pathogens.
- Always wear your own footwear and avoid sharing with others to reduce the chances of infection.
- Do not use nail extensions, as they are bad for nails. Nail extensions can lead to fungal or even bacterial infections and sometimes to permanent damage.
- If you suspect a nail infection, see a podiatrist.
- To treat a nail fungus, you can use tree tea oil or apple cider vinegar as effective home remedies. Another option is to use antifungal creams.
- Once you have successfully rid yourself of the fungal infection, it is important to take precautions to prevent a recurrence.