There are few things more embarrassing than discovering, while you’re out and as far away from a nail salon as possible, that a sliver of something black and unsightly is trapped beneath your nail. No matter how meticulous you may be about caring for your manicure, it can happen–and there’s a good chance you’re not cleaning the sensitive underside of your nail (called a hyponychium) properly, especially if you’re using a stick or your other fingers to dig out dirt beneath your nail.
Holly L. Schippers at FingerNailFixer says the wrong cleaning method or tools can lead to soreness or, in extreme cases, a small gap that can develop between the nail itself and the nail bed. “The safe, easy way to clean the nails is using a soft manicure brush, or even an old worn out toothbrush with gentle motions to scrub things out from under the nails,” Schippers says. “Good ol’ soap and water will also do the trick just fine. In cases of dirty nails on top, you can also gently scrub the folds around the edges of the nail to clean them as well, because they are seals too.”
One of the most important things to remember when cleaning beneath your nails is the mantra easy does it, says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse at Rapaport Dermatology of Beverly Hills. “Don’t dig under your nails. Be very gentle when trying to dislodge an obvious piece of dirt,” Shainhouse says. “Wash your hands with soap and warm water to soften the nail and help loosen the dirt. And never use a metal or plastic stick to clean under the free edge of the nail. It can tear the nail plate from the nail bed (skin) and permanently shorten your nail bed.”
And while we’re talking about protecting our nails from damage, Shainhouse cautions women not to remove their cuticles, no matter how tempting. “Your cuticle is the layer of protection on your nails that seals out environmental germs from getting into your finger,” Shainhouse says. “Pushing them back too aggressively can not only cause damage to the matrix and create permanent ridges in the nail plate, but it can cause inflammation and even let in bacteria and fungus.”
For more beauty advice and news, check out gel polish that lasts 2 weeks without UV light and the one thing you should never do when cutting your nails.
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