We spoke to Jan Arnold, cofounder and style director of Creative Nail Design, who gave us some tips on how to keep nails looking healthy and happy.
Healthy nail habit No. 1: Moisturize your cuticles
The easiest way to maintain nail health is to keep your cuticles moisturized. Dry, cracked cuticles not only look bad, but they can lead to bacterial infections that require a lot more than just a trip to the nail salon. Begin by applying cuticle oil on a daily basis. According to Arnold, oils like jojoba and vitamin E work wonders to prevent tearing and hangnails, and also allow you to push cuticles back with ease. If you don't want to spend money on a separate cuticle oil, simply rub some olive oil on your nails -- it will do the job just fine.
Healthy nail habit No. 2: Keep your cuticles pushed back
You don't have to cut your cuticles to have great-looking nails. Arnold insists that keeping your cuticles pushed back (not cut) is essential for nail health. The eponychium -- "the living tissue at the base of the nail" -- is often mistaken for the cuticle. "If the eponychium is accidentally cut, you're not only risking damage to the new nail, but also risking infection to the cuticle," Arnold explains. Simply pushing your cuticles back using an orangewood stick is the safer alternative and will keep your nails looking well groomed and clean.
Healthy nail habit No. 3: File in one direction
Regardless of your nail length, filing your nails should be a regular part of your beauty regimen -- especially since keeping your nails groomed and well shaped lends to a better manicure and prevents breakage and peeling. That said, use an emery board to file the sides and tops of your nails, and move the file in only one direction to avoid splitting. If your nails are super brittle, look for a glass or crystal nail file -- they're gentler on nails.
Page 1 of 3 -- Learn how to keep your nail tools clean, plus discover more ways to maintain healthy nails on page 2
Healthy nail habit No. 4: Keep nail tools clean
Most of us are guilty of neglecting our nail tools, which, according to Arnold, puts our nail health at risk. Remember to never share your nail tools, and to clean them properly after using them. Stainless-steel tools like clippers should be washed with soap and warm water, and then disinfected with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. Emery boards and buffing blocks cannot be disinfected, so be sure to replace them when the grit wears down.
"Not only do you need to clean your nail tools, but it's very important that you store them strategically," Arnold explains. "Zip-top bags can harbour bacteria that will spread and multiply on your tools." She recommends wrapping files, clippers and any other tools in a paper towel to absorb moisture, and to store them in a cotton bag or in a drawer to allow air circulation.
Healthy nail habit No. 5: Take your time with polish
With a hectic schedule, it can be tempting to skip the base and top coat when applying nail polish, opting instead for a one-step fast-drying polish. And while there's nothing wrong with an occasional quick alternative, Arnold explains that skimping on a base and top coat can make your polish peel and bubble. "Both are necessary for a top-notch manicure," she says.
Base coats are formulated with higher percentages of special polymers that are used to improve polish adhesion to the nail, plus they add a barrier between the nail and nail colour so that your nail does not get stained (which is especially important if you like to wear dark colours such as grey, purple or navy). "Top coats are essential, too, because they are formulated with a high percentage of nitrocellulose, which produces high shine and prolongs the life of your polished nails," explains Arnold.
Page 2 of 3 -- Are you a nail biter? Learn how to kick the habit and get stronger, healthier nails on page 3
Healthy nail habit No. 6: Avoid biting your nails
It's easy to take the stress of your week out on your nails and their cuticles, but biting them can lead to infection, tearing and weak nails. According to Arnold, biting your nails can be a sign of "impulsive perfection," and after your teeth cause your nails and cuticles to tear, you'll often keep biting them to keep ends looking "clean."
If you tend to bite your nails, reclaim your hands by getting a manicure to clean up the damage and to deter further biting. Keeping your fingernails painted can encourage you to leave your hands alone, since a clear coat of polish can help strengthen your nails -- and give off a terrible taste.
Adopt these simple habits, and you'll quickly find your nails looking healthy, hydrated and beautiful.
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