In Nutrition

We use our nails for everything. We bite them. We peel oranges with them. We open cans with them. We peel, lift, pry, and scrape with something smaller than a postage stamp and made with the same protein that makes up hair. We ask a lot from our nails, so it’s important to make sure we take care of them with adequate nail care.

Anatomy of a Nail

Good nail care should start with an understanding of the parts that make up our nails. The first part, the nail plate, is just one of six main parts that make up each nail in our bodies. Underneath the nail plate is the nail bed, which provides nutrition to the nail. At the base of each nail is a half-moon shaped area called the lunela, which is part of the nail matrix. Though you can’t see all of it, the nail matrix extends from the lunela further back into the skin of the finger. It produces and houses the cells that are needed to make your nails grow. The dry fold of skin made of dead skin cells at the base of each nail is called the cuticle. It covers the nail matrix and keeps bacteria from getting in. Finally, the ridge of skin that surrounds the nail is called the nail fold.

Avoid the Culprits

The first step to good nail care is to avoid the causes of nail damage. There are a lot of substances we run into on a daily basis that can cause brittle nails and even lead to nail separation and infection. If you do a lot of housework, you probably expose your nails to detergents and cleansers. If you’re a janitor, you probably use cleaning fluids. If you’re a bartender, even citrus fruits can be problematic for nails.

If you can’t stay away from these chemicals, wear gloves whenever possible to protect your nails from damage. Exposing your nails to moisture too often, or putting your hands in harsh cleaners, can cause brittle, weak nails. Wear vinyl gloves for work with wet substances or chemicals. Vinyl does a better job than latex or rubber in protecting your hands from moisture and abrasion. To help with moisture even more, you can sprinkle a dusting of baby powder in your gloves, which helps repel moisture. Preventative nail care can ensure you never have to worry about brittle, broken nails.


Your nails don’t contain any fat, so they easily lose moisture. Part of your nail care regimen should include moisturizing your nails. You can soak your nails in tepid, lukewarm water, and then apply a nail moisturizer, which helps lock in moisture. Make sure you use an all-natural moisturizer free from all petroleum products and toxic substances. Using a harsh moisturizer can be worse than nothing at all, and defeats the purpose of nail care.

Cuticle Care

You should take care of your cuticles, but don’t cut them or use sharp metal instruments on them. This can break down the cuticle’s natural protection and allow bacteria to enter the nail and moisture to leave. Instead, soak cuticles, and gently push them back with a moist towel. For a natural cuticle softener, you can scrub your cuticles with a nailbrush dipped in baking soda.

Don’t Pick

Proper nail care should help you minimize the number of hangnails you get, but you will still get them occasionally. Though it’s certainly tempting, don’t pick at hangnails. Doing so opens the door to infection by breaking the skin, which is the body’s natural barrier to prevent bacteria from entering the body.  Instead, carefully clip the dry, dead part of the hangnail with small, sharp scissors, and then apply an antibiotic cream or antiseptic. Goldenseal is a particularly effective herbal antibiotic and can be applied directly to the hangnail.

Prevent Fungal Growth

Although fungi and yeast will attack toenails and fingernails alike, it’s more likely you’ll get a fungal infection in your toenails. This is because your feet are more likely to be exposed to fungus, and because they generally stay in a moister environment than your feet. The fungus that causes athletes foot can also invade the nails, and easily crosses over.

For proper nail care, keep your hands and feet clean and dry. If you’re prone to sweaty feet, make sure you change socks as frequently as needed, and air out your shoes and feet. Don’t use public showers without wearing flip flips or sandals, as it’s easy to pick up a fungal infection there.

Nail Care at Natural Body Works

Natural Body Works takes great pride in health and sanitation and preventative care. Good nail care will ensure your nails stay healthy and strong for years to come. Our nail technician, Becky, can be reached with any questions or to set up an appointment at 360-694-9726. Book an appointment with us today!

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