User Tools

Site Tools


How to Have Healthy Nails

Having healthy nails is as important to those with lymphedema as having healthy skin.

Any break, hanggnail, tear could lead to celluitis infections.

Unhealthy nails also become more susceptible to fungal infections and other problems.

These infections, whether bacterial or fungal will do further damage to our system and cause a worsening of our lymphedema.

Basic Nail Care

Keep nails clean and dry. This helps keep bacteria and other infectious organisms from collecting under the nail.

If toenails are thick and difficult to cut, soak them in warm salt water (one tsp. of salt to a pint of water) for five to ten minutes and apply a 10 percent urea cream - available at drug stores without a prescription. Trim as usual.

Nails should be cut straight across and rounded slightly at the tip for maximum strength. Use sharp nail scissors or clippers to do the job. Filing the nails into points will weaken them.

Do not remove your cuticle. It will allow infection to develop.

Use a “fine” textured file to keep nails shaped and free of snags.

Avoid biting fingernails.

Avoid “digging-out” ingrown toenails, especially if they are already infected and sore. Seek treatment from a podiatrist.

Report any nail irregularities to your podiatrist. Nail changes, swelling, and pain could signal a serious problem. A vertical black or brown streak, especially if new, should be reported to a podiatrist.

This is especially important in an adult with a single nail streak and/or pigment in the cuticle area (Hutchinson's sign). This can also be due to a benign mole, hemorrhage from trauma, or a fungal infection, but it should be evaluated by a podiatrist.


14 Tips for Strong and Healthy Nails

Get well-groomed fingertips and toes in no time

Nails make it easier to pick up small things, clean a frying pan, and scratch an itch. They also provide an external sign of your health, with weak, brittle nails often signaling some nutritional deficiency. Ignore your nails and you could wind up with painful ingrown nails or annoying fungal infections.

Follow these 14 tips for not only well-groomed, but healthy nails on all 20 fingers and toes.

1. To keep your nails hydrated, rub a small amount of petroleum jelly into your cuticle and the skin surrounding your nails every evening before you go to bed or whenever your nails feel dry. Keep a jar in your purse, desk drawer, car – anywhere you might need it. Not a fan of petroleum jelly? Substitute castor oil. It's thick and contains vitamin E, which is great for your cuticles. Or head to your kitchen cupboard and grab the olive oil – it also works to moisturize your nails.

2. Wear rubber gloves whenever you do housework or wash dishes. Most household chores, from gardening to scrubbing the bathroom to washing dishes, are murderous on your nails. To protect your digits from dirt and harsh cleaners, cover them with vinyl gloves whenever it's chore time. And for extra hand softness, apply hand cream before you put on the rubber gloves.

3. When pushing back your cuticles (it is not necessary to cut them), come in at a 45-degree angle and be very gentle. Otherwise the cuticle will become damaged, weakening the entire nail, says Mariana Diaconescu, manicurist at the Pierre Michel Salon in New York City.

4. Trim your toenails straight across to avoid ingrown toenails. This is particularly important if you have diabetes.

5. Dry your hands for at least two minutes after doing the dishes, taking a bath/shower, etc. Also dry your toes thoroughly after swimming or showering. Leaving them damp increases your risk of fungal infection.

6. Air out your work boots and athletic shoes. Better yet, keep two pairs and switch between them so you're never putting your feet into damp, sweaty shoes, which could lead to fungal infections.

Protect and Pamper

7. Wear 100 percent cotton socks. They're best for absorbing dampness, thus preventing fungal infections.

8. Stretch out the beauty of a manicure by applying a fresh top coat every day, says Susie Galvez, owner of Face Works Day Spa in Richmond, Virginia, and author of Hello Beautiful: 365 Ways to Be Even More Beautiful.

9. To make your nails as strong and resilient as a horse's hooves, take 300 micrograms of the B vitamin biotin four to six times a day. Long ago, veterinarians discovered that biotin strengthened horses' hooves, which are made from keratin, the same substance in human nails. Swiss researchers found that people who took 2.5 milligrams of biotin a day for 5.5 months had firmer, harder nails. In a U.S. study, 63 percent of people taking biotin for brittle nails experienced an improvement.

10. Add a glass of milk and a hard-boiled egg to your daily diet. Rich in zinc, they'll do wonders for your nails, especially if your nails are spotted with white, a sign of low zinc intake.

11. File your nails correctly. To keep your nails at their strongest, avoid filing in a back-and-forth motion – only go in one direction. And never file just after you've gotten out of a shower or bath – wet nails break more easily.

12. Massage your nails to keep them extra strong and shiny. Nail buffing increases blood supply to the nail, which stimulates the matrix of the nail to grow, says Galvez.

13. Polish your nails, even if it's just with a clear coat. It protects your nails, says manicurist Diaconescu. If you prefer color, use a base coat, two thin coats of color, and a top coat. Color should last at least seven days but should be removed after 10 days.

14. Avoid polish removers with acetone or formaldehyde. They're terribly drying to nails, says Andrea Lynn Cambio, M.D., a New York City dermatologist. Use acetate-based removers instead.

Last Updated: 2005-08-16





Fingernails are just another type of skin, but not all nails are created equal. The nails protect the nerve-rich fingertips and tips of the toes from injury. Nails are a substructure of the outer layer of the skin and are composed mainly of keratin, a type of protein. Nails grow at the rate of about 0.05 to 1.2 millimeters per week. The nail bed is the skin on the top of which the nail grows. Healthy nail beds are pink to dark pink, which show a rich blood supply.

Fair skinned people have pinkish nails, while other people have brown or black ones. But one thing is sure: Nails often tell a story. The nails can reveal a lot about the body's internal health. Healthy nails are often a sign of good health, while bad nails are often a tip off to more serious problems. A high protein diet can help your nails grow stronger and healthier.

Common Nail Problems:

Brittle Nails

These often occur from iron deficiency, circulation problems and other problems of the body's endocrine system.


notallowed, hair dyes and even tints sometimes discolor the nails.

Dry nails

Dry skin gets worse in winter or in colder-weather months and so does the condition of some nails. Some get brittle, which is why you have to be careful about soaking them in water with chlorine, soap or detergents. Rubber gloves and warm gloves worn outside in cold weather can help. White spots. Don't believe what you hear. You probably don't have a mineral or calcium deficiency. White spots usually develop because you've hit your nails against something.

Greenish Nails

Greenish nails are usually a result of a localized fungal infection. If you find greenish nails under your nail polish, consult your health care provider as there are treatments for this kind of fungal infection.


Ridges can appear either vertically or horizontally. Horizontal ridges called Beau's lines, can result from severe stress. Some of these ridges are genetic – they're inherited – and get worse as you age. Vertical lines can indicate poor nutrition, or iron deficiency.

Sometimes your nail looks like it's going to literally lift off from the nail bed. It's scary and could be a sign of psoriasis, a skin disorder. Or it might be because your hands are spending too much time in water, detergents or soaps. If this is caused from having your hands in water too much, you might want to consider wearing rubber gloves when washing dishes or doing house work.

Ingrown Toenails

By Kirk A. Koepsel, D.P.M.



Ingrown toenails are due to the penetration of the edges of the nail plate into the soft tissue of the toe. It begins with a painful irritation that often becomes infected. With bacterial invasion, the nail margin becomes red and swollen often demonstrating drainage or pus. In people who have diabetes or poor circulation this relatively minor problem can be become quite severe. In this instance a simple ingrown toenail can result in gangrene of the toe. Patients with joint replacements or pace makers are at risk of bacterial spread through the blood stream resulting in the spread of infection to these sites. These patients should seek medical attention at the earliest sign of an ingrown toenail. There are several causes of ingrown toenails: a hereditary tendency to form ingrown toenails, improperly cutting the toenails either too short or cutting into the side of the nail and ill-fitting shoes can cause them. Children will often develop ingrown toenails as a result of pealing or tearing their toenails off instead of trimming them with a nail clipper. Once an ingrown toenail starts, they will often reoccur. Many people perform “bathroom” surgery to cut the nail margin out only to have it reoccur months later as the nail grows out.


Treatment for ingrown toenails is relatively painless. The injection to numb the toe may hurt some, but a skilled doctor has techniques to minimize this discomfort. Once the toe is numb, the nail margin is removed and the nail root in this area is destroyed. Most commonly, the doctor will use an acid to kill the root of the nail, but other techniques are also available. It may take a few weeks for the nail margin to completely heal, but there are generally no restrictions in activity, bathing or wearing shoes. Once the numbness wears off, there may be some very mild discomfort but rarely does this require pain medicine. A resumption of sports activities and exercise is generally permitted the following day.

There are very few complications associated with this procedure. Reoccurrence of the ingrown toenail can occur a small percentage of the time. Continuation of the infection is possible which can be controlled easily with oral antibiotics. On occasion, the remaining nail may become loose from the nail bed and fall off. A new nail will grow out to replace it over several months. With removal of the nail margin, the nail will be narrower and this should be expected.

To prevent ingrown toenails it is recommended to wear properly fitting shoes and to trim the toenails straight across and not too short.

Podiatry Network

Sweaty Feet, Hyperhidrosis

By Kirk A. Koepsel, D.P.M.



Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, can be localized to one area or it may be generalized. In the localized type, the most common sites are the palms and soles of the feet. The cause of the excessive sweating is not well understood. There is an emotional component to it in some but not all cases. The excessive moisture contributes to athlete's foot and plantar wart infections. There are no good oral medications for the control of hyperhidrosis. Topical anti-persperants are of little value. A prescription topical medication called “Dry sol” is of some value. This medication works best if applied to the feet before going bed, then wrapping the feet in plastic wrap and wearing socks. This should be done three to four nights in a row. Although this is not a cure for the problem, it does provide temporary relief and is useful as part of the treatment plan for athlete's foot and plantar warts in patients who suffer from hyperhidrosis.

Podiatry Network

Fungal Toenails, Yellowed or Deformed Toenails

By Kirk A. Koepsel, D.P.M.



The most common cause of yellowed, thick and/or deformed toenails is a fungal infection of the toenail. The fungus that infects the nail, most commonly, is the same fungus that causes athletes foot. It tends to be slowly progressive, damaging the nail to a greater and greater degree over time. The infection usually starts at the tip of the nail and works its way back. It usually is not painful and often not noticed until it has gotten well established. A single toenail or any number of nails can be affected. It can also occur on just one foot. Over time, the nail becomes thickened, crumbly, and distorted in appearance. Sweaty feet contribute to the initial infection process and contribute to its spread. The fungus prefers an environment that is moist, dark and warm, which is why it affects the toenails much more often than fingernails. It does not spread through the blood stream. The infection limits itself to the nails and skin. It is often found in association with areas of dry scaly skin on the bottom of the foot or between the toes. The dry scaling skin is frequently found to be chronic athletes' foot. It is not highly contagious, and family members are almost as likely to contract it from some other source as they are from the family member who has the infection. Keeping common showering areas clean is recommended, and sharing shoes should be avoided.


Not all thicken or yellowed toenails are caused by a fungal infection. Injury to a toenail can cause the toenail to grow in a thickened or malformed fashion. This can be due to an established fungal infection or may be due to the damage caused to the nail root when it was injured. In these instances, treatment with anti-fungal medications will not correct the malformed nail. Other causes of thickened toenails are small bone spurs that can form under the toenail and psoriasis. Taking a scraping of the toenail and culturing it makes the diagnosis.


It is best to treat the condition as soon as it is noticed. In early cases, over the counter medications may be sufficient. It is also important to treat any concomitant athlete's foot that may be present. In more advanced cases, a prescription medication may be needed. There are effective topical and oral medications available for the treatment of fungal toenails. If sweating feet are a problem, changing shoes and socks during the day is recommended. There are some topical medications available that help to reduce the sweating of the feet. On occasion, your doctor may recommend removing the toenail.

Podiatry Network

Tips For Healthy Nails

To help keep you nails healthy, read the following tips:

Use nail polish remover with caution. It can dry the nails and your cuticles. Try not to repair nail enamel every day.

Watch out for signs of nail infection, including redness, pain or pus. The nail plates are porous and dry quickly. Nail polishes waterproof the nails and cause the skin under them to stay wet longer. This makes them more open to infection.

Be careful of some nail products. Some can cause rashes on the fingers or around the eyes since buffing or filing can cause small particles to enter the air. Some of the more damaging products are in nail hardeners.

We don't recommend applying artificial nails over your own. They may look nice for a while, but they destroy the underlying nail. The chemicals and glue used are dangerous to the body, and are readily absorbed through the damaged nail and nail bed. The use of artificial nails has been known to contribute to the development of fungal infection of the fingernails.

How to Give Yourself a Manicure

You will enjoy having nails that look well cared for. Nice looking nails can be an accessory to any outfit. As you know nail polish comes in about a million colors glossy or metallic, with or without glitter. Nail polish can be a fun way to express your personality.

Storing nail polish in the fridge extends its shelf life (when polish is exposed to heat, it thickens and gets hard to apply). Be careful, food and chemicals don't mix! To avoid contaminating Mom's favorite leftovers, store polish in a plastic container before chilling. When you're ready to do your nails, rub the bottle gently between your palms to warm it up. Don't shake it, shaking mixes air into the polish and causes bubbles.

Use a fine emery board to shape your nails. Working in one direction only, file from the sides to the center. See nail shapes below.

Give your finger tips a soaking in warm soapy water, so the cuticles will soften up. Then dry your fingers.

Push cuticles down with an orange stick.

Buff the nails with a nail buffer from the tip to the cuticle.

Rub some hand cream into your hands and nails. Make sure it is removed from your nails before you polish them. This will condition your nails.

When you polish your nails, use a base coat of clear, two - three coats of polish and a top coat of clear or “top coat” that you should apply every 4 days to keep your polish from chipping and lasting longer.

Pick Your Nail Shape

Sharp-corner Square

Totally trendy now, trends change, but these nails always looks good. This shape looks great with short nails and on longer ones too.

Long & Oval

These nails look glamorous but break easily and make typing more difficult.

Rounded & Short

Good for the active gal who hates to fuss. A low maintenance manicure.

Happy Feet

Ingrown Toenails

Usually caused by wearing tight shoes, socks or stockings that press the nail into the tissue, ingrown toenails can be handled by cutting the nail with long-handled scissors or nail clippers. Never tear away the nail with your finger and always trim the nail straight across so the end of the nail forms a square, not a half moon. You can finish the edges with a nail file or emery board.

If you develop an ingrown toenail, try to find and eliminate the cause. Soak the toe in warm water to soften the nail and then press some cotton under the nail to keep it from cutting the skin. If you need to, do this several times until the nail grows out. While you may look strange for awhile, also try wearing open-toed shoes. If the toe is infected and you still have pus, bleeding, swelling or pain after a few days, see your health care provider or a podiatrist.

Toenail Fungus

The same fungus that causes athlete's foot can grow within your toenails – especially if you wear shoes with poor ventilation or a bandage around your toe. While there's no sure way to prevent growth of toenail fungus, be sure to keep your feet dry and clean. Chronic toenail fungus is tough to cure but you can control it by applying an antifungal product. Be sure to see your health care provider if your nail becomes red or painful. There is prescription medication available if you have bad recurrent fungus under your toenails.


Nutritional Steps to Healthy Nails

By Corinna Richards

What you eat will reflect on the health of your nails, too.

Lack of vitamin A and calcium causes dryness and brittleness.

Lack of protein, folic acid and vitamin C causes hang nails.

White bands across the nails are caused by protein deficiency.

A lack of sufficient hydrochloric acid can cause splitting nails.

Insufficient intake or vitamin B12 can lead to excessive dryness, very rounded and curved ends and darkening of nails.

Insufficient zinc can cause development of white spots on the nails. Cuts and cracks in the nails may indicate a need for more liquids.

Red skin around your cuticles can be caused by poor metabolism of essential fatty acids.

Here are the guidelines to follow for improving the health of your nails:

Eat a diet composed of 50% fruit and raw vegetables in order to supply necessary vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Eat foods rich in sulfur and silicon, such as broccoli, fish and onions. Include foods rich in biotin such as soy, brewer’s yeast and whole grains.

Drink plenty of water and other liquids.

You may supplement your diet with royal jelly, spirulina or kelp, which are rich in silica, zinc and B vitamins and help to strengthen your nails. Drink fresh carrot juice daily, this is high in calcium and phosphorus and is excellent for strengthening nails.

Healthy Nails

Fingernails: Do's and don'ts for healthy nails

Are you taking good care of your nails? Here's what you need to know to keep your fingernails in tiptop shape.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Take a close look at your fingernails. Are they strong and healthy looking? Or do you see ridges, dents, or areas of unusual color or shape? Many less than desirable nail conditions can be avoided through proper fingernail care. Others indicate an underlying condition that requires attention.

Fingernails: What's normal, what's not

Your fingernails — composed of laminated layers of a protein called keratin — grow from the area at the base of the nail under your cuticle. As new cells grow, older cells become hard and compacted and are eventually pushed out toward your fingertips.

Healthy fingernails are smooth, without pits or grooves. They're uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration. Sometimes fingernails develop harmless vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Vertical ridges tend to become more prominent with age. Fingernails can also develop white lines or spots due to injury, but these eventually grow out with the nail.

Not all nail conditions are normal, however. Consult your doctor or dermatologist if you notice:

Changes in nail color, such as discoloration of the entire nail or a dark streak under the nail Changes in nail shape, such as curled nails Thinning or thickening of the nails Separation of the nail from the surrounding skin Bleeding around the nails Redness, swelling or pain around the nails Fingernail care: Do's and don'ts

To keep your fingernails looking their best, follow these simple guidelines.


Keep your fingernails dry and clean. This prevents bacteria, fungi and other organisms from growing under your fingernails. Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when washing dishes, cleaning or using harsh chemicals, and avoid long soaks in the tub.

Trim and file your fingernails regularly. Use a sharp manicure scissors or clippers. Trim your nails straight across, then round the tips in a gentle curve. It might be easiest to trim and file your fingernails when they're soft, such as after bathing.

Use moisturizer. When you use hand lotion, rub the lotion into your fingernails and cuticles, too.


Abuse your fingernails. To prevent nail damage, don't use your fingernails as tools to pick, poke or pry things.

Bite your fingernails or pick at your cuticles. These habits can damage the nail bed. Even a minor cut alongside your fingernail can allow bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection.

Pull off hangnails. You might rip live tissue along with the hangnail. Instead, carefully clip off hangnails.

Ignore problems. If you have a nail problem that doesn't seem to go away on its own or is associated with other signs and symptoms, consult your doctor or dermatologist for an evaluation.

Related Lymphedema People Pages

External Links

Index of Lymphedema People Resources

From a basic website on lymphedema, our outreach has continued to expand to where now we offer a full range of support groups, blogs and glossaries on all types of lymphatic conditions.

Index of Resources:

Lymphedema People Forums

Lymphedema People Online Support Groups

Lymphedema People Blogs

Lymphedema People Glossaries

Privacy Statement

Terms of Use

Rules of Conduct


Updated Jan. 18, 2012

how_to_have_healthy_nails.txt · Last modified: 2012/10/16 14:40 (external edit)