Patients come to me every day with nail diseases; sometimes the problem is actually the patient’s own fault.
Nails are an appendage of the skin. They’re important for function (you couldn’t pick bugs off your partner without them) as well as for appearance. When they are diseased or damaged they can be exquisitely painful and unsightly.
The most preventable, self-inflicted nail condition — paronychia — is caused by removing cuticles. Paronychia is a painful inflammation of the fingernail that often results from scraping off or pushing back cuticles.
The cuticle serves the important function of sealing the nail-skin junction. If you break this seal, then irritants like soap and infections like bacteria or yeast get in the space between the nail and the skin, leading to painful paryonychia.
I know that some women feel their nails look better without the cuticle, but, trust me, nails with cuticles look much better than big, red, swollen fingertips with bumpy, ridged nails.
What should you do?
- Nails dry out just like skin does. When you apply moisturizer to your hands, massage it into your nails and cuticles as well. Moisturizer is best applied just after washing your hands when the skin is still damp.
- Don’t soak your fingernails in warm water. Use warm olive oil instead, then blot dry with a soft cloth.
- Mail me your all your cuticle pushers; I’ll recycle them. You don’t need them anymore.
- Never have a manicurist cut your cuticles. It is the surest way to contract a nail infection.
Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik