How Cutting Your Nails Wrong Could Lead to Infection

Yes, you've been doing it all your life—or having someone do it for you—but there is a right way and a wrong way to cut your nails.

Cutting nail with clippertaffpixture/Shutterstock

When you go to a nail salon, do they cut or push back your cuticles? While many professional nail groomers do this, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s one of the biggest no-nos in nail care. Trimming cuticles can make it easier for bad bacteria to work its way into the nail root, and that could lead to an infection. And that’s not the only mistake people make when trimming their nails.

Soak your nails first

The way you begin and end your nail grooming process is important. Prior to cutting your nails, be sure to soak them in warm water to make them more flexible and easier to work with.

Trimming nails

For the most part, nails should be cut cleanly across. A slight curving cut on fingernails is OK, but try that on your toes and you could easily wind up with ingrown toenails. And while you may prefer long nails to shorter ones, that’s not the healthiest choice, dermatologist Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, tells “Short nails stay cleaner and break less often, which is good for both your appearance and your health.”

Keep your nail tools clean

Another simple error people make all the time is not taking the time to clean their nail care supplies. The AAD advises that the tools you use on your nails should be sterilized monthly with a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol.

Filing nails

When filing your nails, make sure you file in one direction only—don’t go back-and-forth. This makes the ends of your nails even and smooth. This seems like a small, nitpicky detail, but it actually affects the strength of your nails. When you’re all finished, moisturize your hands and nails to keep them strong. Now that you know how to protect your nails, learn 10 more easy ways to grow strong, beautiful nails.

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Taylor Markarian
Taylor is a regular contributor to covering culture, advice, travel, pets, and all things weird and haunted. She is the author of From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How It Changed Society, which analyzes the evolution of punk and mental health. She holds a B.A. in Writing, Literature & Publishing from Emerson College.