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Expert Advice: Artificial Nails

Nail expert Paul Kechijian, M.D., is a dermatologist in Great Neck, New York. He was formerly associate clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center. Following are his thoughts on artificial nails.

Many people wear artificial nails without any problems. Sometimes, however, the glue can cause a facial rash or contact dermatitis of the nail. Usually this doesn’t injure the nail bed, but rarely, if it’s a bad reaction, nails can be lost permanently.

One problem with artificial nails is that you have to soak them in acetone to loosen the glue and get them off. The acetone will dry out the cuticles and the nail, which can make nails more brittle. Also, as the false nail is pulled off, tiny pieces of the nail may go with it. Over several months, you are tearing the surface of the nail and making it more brittle. If you want acrylic fingernails, pick a reputable salon and make sure the salon uses the correct adhesive.

Practical Tips to Protect Your Tips
Nail care can be as simple and affordable—or as complex and expensive—as you want it to be. When it comes to keeping your nails in chic shape, a few good habits go a long way.

1. Use moisturizer! Every time you immerse your hands in water, your nails swell. As they dry, they shrink again. This repeated swelling and contracting stresses your nails and can make them brittle and fragile. Whenever your hands get wet, lightly dry them off and apply moisturizer while they are still a bit damp. The lubricant will seal in the moisture and prevent the cuticles from drying out. Also, apply moisturizer regularly throughout the day. Unpolished nails are permeable, so smooth the lotion all over your hands. Massage the moisturizer into each cuticle to bring circulation to the nail matrix. For a deep treatment, slather your hands liberally with a lotion or oil of your choice before you go to bed, then put on a pair of cotton gloves and leave them on while you sleep.

2. Trim nails after you bathe, while they are soft. Dry nails are more likely to crack when cut.

3. Keep unpolished nails short. They will be less apt to break.

4. Wear rubber gloves when you’re gardening, doing the dishes, using cleansers, and so on. To give your nails extra protection, stuff a cotton ball into the fingertip of each glove.

5. Wear mittens (or gloves) outside when it’s cold.

6. Deal with nail damage right away. If the edge of a nail gets chipped, file it off before it has a chance to create a bigger problem. Carry an emery board with you, and smooth the rough spot at the first sign of trouble. Always file in the same direction.

1. Soak your hands in water if you have a choice.

2. Sabotage your nails by biting them, pulling at the cuticles, or peeling off the polish.

3. Let your hands come in contact with harsh chemicals. Household cleaning products, detergents, and even nail polish removers can weaken and dry out nails.

4. Cut your cuticles. According to nail expert Paul Kechijian, M.D., cuticles are meant to attach tightly to the nail for a waterproof seal. If you break the seal, you lose protection and may get an infection. Don’t push your cuticles all the way back!

5. Let your cuticles get so dry that they crack. That’s an opportunity for infection to develop.

6. Use your nails to open packages, open tabs on soda cans, cratch at stubborn spots, and so on.

Common Nail Problems
Have you ever met a “parts model”? When you see an ad in a magazine with a pair of hands holding a jar of cuticle cream— those hands are hers. When you see an ad on television with a pair of hands caressing a man’s shaved cheek—those are also hers. If you do meet one, you might notice that she is wearing elbow-length gloves year-round as part of her beauty regimen.

I don’t recommend wearing elbow-length gloves, but I should point out that most nail problems are caused by trauma (for example, shutting your hand in a cabinet door) or exposure to water and chemicals. If your fingernails look pink and healthy but are brittle or chipped, you probably are being too hard on your hands.

If your diet is good, but your nails are discolored or look strange, they may be trying to tell you something about your health. No one would base a diagnosis strictly on the appearance of your fingernails, but viewed in the context of other signs and symptoms, they can add information that helps complete the diagnostic puzzle. Remember to mention your fingernails when you visit the doctor, as their color, shape, texture, and markings may all give clues to underlying illness.


Eating Gelatin Strengthens Nails
Gelatin is a good source of protein, and protein is the main component of nails. So it may make sense to eat more gelatin products for healthier nails. However, no evidence proves that consuming gelatin can help your nails grow. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and they are used by all parts of the body. Your body has no way of knowing that you are hoping something you eat—for example, gelatin—will be used exclusively for your fingernails. Unless you are deficient in protein, which is uncommon in the United States, consuming extra protein supplements or applying protein-based products on your nails won’t help your nails become stronger. To have healthy, strong nails, follow my Beauty Diet, which includes adequate protein and other nutrients—and wear gloves when necessary!

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