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. Unexpected changes in the fingernails could also be a sign of several types of cancer. But even just ignoring your nails, you could wind up with painful ingrown nails or annoying fungal infections.
Follow these 14 tips for not only well-groomed, but healthy and strong 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. 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.
4. 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.
5. Wear 100 percent cotton socks. They’re best for absorbing dampness, thus preventing fungal infections.
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