When was the last time you thought about nail care or how to maintain healthy nails and cuticles? Our hands and nails are constant companions in our daily routines, facing exposure to various environmental factors. The health of our nails not only reflects our grooming habits but also impacts our overall well-being. In this guide, we delve into essential nail care practices to maintain healthy, strong nails amidst life’s demands.

Understanding the Importance of Hand and Nail Health

As skin therapists, why are we talking about nail health? Fingernails and toenails (and hair!) are actually specialized appendages of the skin! They are all made up of similar cells and share similar nutritional and topical care needs.

Our hands and nails both play an important role in our day to day routines. From typing away at the keyboard, scrolling our phones, washing dishes and so much more, our hands and nails face constant exposure to our environment and the demands placed upon them.

The skin on our hands is much thinner than other places on the body and lacks a substantial layer of subcutaneous fat. Our hands also have fewer oil glands, which play a vital role in retaining skin moisture and hydration. The reduction of oil glands explains why so many of us experience dry skin on our hands and nails, especially during the cooler seasons.

Nail and Cuticle Growth

Our nails and cuticles play an essential role in the overall health and wellness of our hands. By recognizing their role, we can implement practices that ensure healthy nails and hands.

Nails act as a protective shield for the fingertips from pressure and other stressors. Nails also serve as indicators of our overall health, with changes in color or texture often reflecting our overall health.

Anatomically, nails originate from a pocket within the skin known as the matrix. The lunula, Latin for little moon, is a crescent-shaped area at the base of the nail plate. This visible part of the matrix is the epicenter of nail growth. Newly formed keratin accumulates at the nail plate and gradually pushes the nail forward, which is how our nails have continuous growth.

Our cuticles are the thin strips of skin at the nail’s base. The cuticle’s primary function is to prevent bacteria, fungi and other pathogens from entering the nail matrix, which preserves nail health. Cuticles are the guards that protect the nail, while nails are the armor of the fingertips.

Fun Fact: Did you know that your hair has cuticles? These hair cuticles are different from the cuticles on your nails, however they share a similar protective function.

What Is Nail Care? 

The skin on our hands is constantly exposed to external factors such as sunlight, wind, temperature variations, soaps, detergents and more. In particular, the sun and UV ray subjection results in the formation of wrinkles, age spots, and a loss of skin elasticity. These repeated and often daily routines can strip the skin of natural oils, leading to dry nails and may damage nail health.

Nail care is an essential component of any skin care routine. We recommend incorporating these key practices for maintaining optimal nail health and strength, including showing your hands and cuticles some love, too.

Moisturize for Healthy-Looking Nails

To protect the thin skin on our hands, try adding daily moisturizing for your hands, such as during your morning or evening skin care routine. Use a nourishing hand cream or lotion to replenish moisture and prevent dryness. Currently in heavy rotation around here is Comfrey Cocoa Butter Lotion by Saltspring Soapworks. Infused with neem oil and aloe vera leaf juice,  to provide much-needed relief and hydration for dry nails and hands.

Sun Protection for Hands & Nails

Protecting the skin on our hands from harmful UV exposure is crucial for reducing risk of skin cancer, as well as decreasing the signs of premature aging, such as wrinkles and age spots. Apply sunscreen to the hands to shield hands from UV rays. We recommend a non-greasy formula, such as HandDrink Hand Cream SPF 15 by Jane Iredale, which moisturizes the skin while providing antioxidant protection. As an added bonus, this Jane Iredale sunscreen is also reef safe!

Nail Hygiene Tips

Part of nail care includes keeping nails clean and trimmed to prevent the accumulation of dirt and bacteria. Use a nail file and a gentle nail brush to clean the nails while focusing on the nail bed and underneath the nails. We recommend ergonomic two-sided SpaRitual Nail Brush made with sisal hemp bristles and FSC-certified beechwood.

Boost Nail Strength

To strengthen nails and to help encourage nail growth, consider using a protective nail polish to provide a barrier against environmental stressors. We recommend the SpaRitual collection: Nourish Nail Vegan Strengthener to improve elasticity for healthy nail growth. This nail treatment also helps keep nails refreshed and protected.

Cuticle Care to Reduce Hangnails

If possible, avoid cutting or forcefully pushing the cuticles, as this can lead to inflammation and infections. Instead, gently push back cuticles after a shower or bath when they are softened. Apply a few drops of cuticle oil for hydration and protection. We recommend SpaRitual Cuti-Cocktail Vegan Nail & Cuticle Oil for long lasting moisture and optimal cuticle health.

Feed Your Nail Beds a Nutrient Dense Diet

Incorporating a nutrient dense diet which is rich in vitamins and minerals can help maintain healthy nails, cuticles and skin.

Limit Use of Harsh Nail & Hand Products

When possible, select mild soaps and hand sanitizers that avoid drying out the skin. Harsh chemicals can strip away natural oils, contributing to brittle nails, as well as dry nails and hands. 

Looking for non-toxic nail polish? We recommend SpaRitual Nourishing Vegan Color Nail Lacquer. Their all-in-one formulation eliminates the need for base and topcoat with adhesion promoters and gloss additives, without the abrasive additives.

In Conclusion 

Nourishing your hands, nails and cuticles is essential to promote long term hand and nail health.  Our nails and cuticles are our hand’s protective guards against the environment. Talk to your professional Skin Therapist about how you can ensure maintaining your healthy nails and hands incorporate nail care into your skin care routine that best suits your needs and lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nail Care

Nail biting is a common habit that damages nail health. Try keeping nails short to minimize further damage and avoid long nails. Prioritize hand and nail moisturization with hydrating products such as cuticle oil and healing ointments or creams that contain ingredients such as shea butter or vitamin E. Nail strengtheners may also be useful to encourage healthy nail growth.

While it may be tempting to cut cuticles for aesthetic reasons, it is generally not recommended to do so. Our cuticles are delicate and play an important role in the health of your nails and hands. Cutting the cuticle can lead to risk of infection and damage to the nail matrix. Instead of cutting cuticles, try gently massaging the cuticles after a shower when cuticles are soft and malleable. Using cuticle oil or moisturizing cream can also contribute to cuticle health and flexibility.

The easiest way to remove dead skin around your fingernails is to gently scrub the nails and surrounding skin with a soft nail brush after a bath or shower. Pay extra care to the nail bed and area under the fingernails as well. This can help loosen and remove dead skin cells when the skin around your fingernails is softest.

Yes, getting a manicure can be beneficial for nail care and for the overall health of your hands, nails and cuticles. However, it is important to note that some manicure practices, such as cutting cuticles or using harsh chemicals on the hands and nails, can cause potential harm. Maintaining good nail care hygiene between manicures that supports healthy nails will be beneficial to the skin.

Acetone can be harsh and drying, so we recommend choosing a milder alternative that is gentler on your nail health. In addition, apply a layer of cuticle oil or a rich moisturizer to the skin around your nails before beginning the removal process. This will help create a barrier and minimize the negative effects of nail polish remover on your skin. After removing nail polish, moisturize your nails and reapply cuticle oil for maximum hydration and moisture.

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