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April 17th, 2020

This week’s topic we will be talking about how to perform your own nail care safely at home.  This can be important because being able to self-care gives us a sense of control and independence.  So let’s talk about the tools that we need and exactly how we are going to perform our own nail care.

  1. Tools – Nail Clippers

Nail clippers come in an array of shapes, sizes, and curvatures.  Look for one that you are most comfortable using.  Avoid using tools such as scissors, wire cutters, or knives to do this (you’d be surprised at all the tools that I’ve heard people use to trim their nails with).  Ideally you should have two nail clippers – one for your fingernails and one for your toenails.  Toenails are generally broader and thicker which is why they require a slightly larger clipper.  Having separate nail clippers can also help to prevent any transferring of bacteria or fungus between your hands and your feet.  If you have any fungal toenails, it’s best to clip your “good” toenails before clipping the fungal ones, this will prevent any transferring of fungus to your good nails.  Always disinfect your nail clippers after use by wiping them down with some rubbing alcohol.  If possible, avoid sharing your nail clippers with other people.  

  • How to cut your toenails

Now with the appropriate nail clipper that you are comfortable with handling, cut your nails straight across.  I know that a lot of us will have the urge to cut down into the corner areas of the nail but try your best not to.  You can risk leaving a small piece of nail inside if you cut down too deep into the corner which can lead to ingrown toenails.  This can result in painful retrieval of the nail spicule and potential infection which is not pleasant. 

There’s no need to cut your nails extremely short, it’s actually safer to leave a tiny bit of length at the ends of your nails.  Extremely short nails can cause sensitivity at the tip of your toes especially while in shoes.  Aim for around a length of one to two millimeters at the end of your toenails.

  • Tools – Nail File/Emery Board

After cutting your toenails, it’s important to file down the nails using a nail file or emery board.  This will help to smooth out any jagged and/or rough edges, as well as help to prevent snagging onto socks or blankets.

What if you have thickened toenails?  Using your nail file, lightly file down the top of the nail to reduce the thickness.  Regularly filing down the top of the nail will decrease the thickness over time.

  • Cut Frequency

So how frequently should we be cutting our toenails?  The nails on our feet grow significantly slower than on our hands.  Whereas we might cut our fingernails once every two to three weeks, a good timeframe to cut our toenails would be approximately every six to eight weeks.  On average, most people’s toenails will grow around two millimeters per month. 

Some of you may also notice that during certain times of the year your toenails may grow faster or slower, and yes that can happen!  Change in weather affects the rate of growth in our nails.  Often times in the winter, our body will have more constricted blood flow which will result in less nutrients and oxygen going into our toes.  Although not always applicable to everyone, this can lead to a slower growth in our nails during the winter time.  However, a slowed or altered growth in nail can also be a sign of poor circulation or a change in health status.  In which case, it’s important to have it checked out by your family doctor.

  • Nail Polish

Alright, I get a lot of questions about nail polish and here’s my take on it.  I don’t recommend using nail polish on your toenails and here are my reasons why. 

Your nails are actually extremely permeable, meaning they are able to soak up whatever is applied on them.  Leaving a coat of nail polish on your nails will dry out, stain and prevent the nails from breathing.  This can invite an array of bacteria and fungus to grow underneath the nail which can lead to other long-term problems.  As well, covering your nails with nail polish makes it more difficult to flag issues in your nails that you would normally see without the nail polish on it.  So what do you do if you need to paint them for a special occasion or an event?  Do it, but remember to take it off right after.  Don’t leave the nail polish on for weeks and months at a time.  Your toenails will thank you for it!

  • Ask for help

Need help?  Ask a willing family member or friend if you have any difficulties bending down to reach your feet.  Hopefully you can provide them with some helpful tips and tricks from this article which will help guide them through the steps. 

And if you notice anything that seems out of the ordinary that needs more medical attention, remember that we Chiropodists are here to help!  Come find one of us on our College website,  Until next time!

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