Do your nails need a break from polish?

A doctor answers your nail health questions

Nail_polish_blog_largeAt my dermatology practice, I commonly see people who are concerned about damaged fingernails and toenails.

No one wants brittle, discolored or thick nails from an infection or poor care. And lots of people like the look of colorful, glistening nails with a thick polish coating.

Let’s talk about balancing nail health and polish use.

The big question: Do your nails need to “breathe” between manicures or polish applications?

In short, the answer is no. But there are caveats.

Nails don’t need surface access to air because they get oxygen and nutrients from your blood. Keeping nails hydrated is important if yours are prone to breakage, and a pause in polishing to moisturize would help.

However, my biggest caution is this: Don’t use polish or imitation nails if you have any kind of damage, such as cuticle inflammation or redness, cracks or brittleness, discoloration or fungal infection.

Applying polish to a nail with damage puts a roof over the bacteria, which continue to multiply and to cause problems.

If your nails are healthy, it’s fine to continue wearing polish however frequently you like.

What types of polish are best?

Choose polishes with more natural ingredients. Avoid harsh additives, such as formaldehyde.

Some ingredients in cured shellac polishes and fake nails are known to cause skin rashes, inflammation and itchiness, called dermatitis.

These nail applications can cause brittleness, which leads to more susceptibility to injuries and infections.

How can I fix damaged nails?

Bacteria can lead to permanent nail damage and can cause odd-looking or painful nails. If bacteria continue to fester, you can lose a nail and the infection eventually could hit your bone.

Recent research shows that a type of collagen supplement pills called Verisol can improve nail growth and reduce brittleness, and I plan to offer the treatment to patients with nail problems.

Nail fungus is extremely difficult to get rid of. You’ll have a better chance of beating the problem with treatment from a dermatologist using an oral or paint-on medication.

You might be tempted to paint over unsightly nails. But I don’t recommend it. You could compound the problem.

My other healthy nail tips:

  • If you do a task or job that requires your hands to be in water a lot, try to wear protection to limit your hands’ exposure.
  • Avoid using harsh soaps regularly to wash your hands. Choose gentle formulas instead.
  • Read up on the your medications’ side effects because some can alter nail growth.
  • And there’s that tried-and-true advice you’ve heard before: A healthy diet helps maintain healthy skin and nails.

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