Nail Salon FAQs, What You Need to Know!

From current consumer habits, one might surmise that the main function of nails is to look good. But nails serve several physiological purposes: They enhance fine touch and fine motor skills and protect the fingers and toes. Doctors also may examine them for indications of serious underlying diseases; for example, clubbed nails (a condition in which fingers or toes thicken and the nails wrap around them) is a classic sign of chronic lung and heart disorders. For those reasons, it's important to keep nails healthy.

Healthy Nail Tips

Listed are tips to keep your nails healthy if you have artificial nails:

  • If there is any question about sensitivity to the materials in artificial nails, have one nail done as a test and wait a few days to see if a reaction develops.

  • Never apply an artificial nail if the natural nail or skin around it is infected or irritated. Let the infection heal first.

  • Read the directions for do-it-yourself nails before applying them, and follow the directions carefully. Save the ingredient list for your doctor in case you have an allergic reaction or other injury.

  • Treat your artificial nails with care. They may be stronger than your own, but they still can break and separate. Try not to bump or knock them. Find new ways to do ordinary tasks, like using a pencil to dial or depress the numbers on the phone.

  • If an artificial nail separates, dip the fingertip into rubbing alcohol to clean the space between the natural and artificial nails before reattaching the artificial nail. This will help prevent infection.

  • Never use household glues for nail repairs. Use only products intended for nail use, and follow directions.

  • Don't wear artificial nails for longer than three months at a time. Remove them for one month to give nails a rest.

  • Keep nail glues and other poisonous substances out of the reach of children.

How common are nail infections?

More common nail problems, dermatologists report, are infections from bacteria, such as Staphylococcus; fungi, such as Candida (also known as yeast); and skin viruses, such as warts.

Bacterial and fungal infections frequently result from artificial nails, whether applied at home or in a salon. A bump or knock to a long artificial nail may cause it to lift from the natural nail at the base, leaving an opening for dirt to get in. If the nail is reglued without proper cleaning (with rubbing alcohol, for example), bacteria or fungi may grow between the nails and spread into the natural nail. Also, as the natural nail grows, an opening develops between the natural nail and artificial nail. If this space is not filled in regularly, it can increase the chances for infection.

A fungal infection can take hold when an acrylic nail is left in place too long--such as three months or more--and moisture accumulates under the nail.

Bacterial, fungal and viral infections also can occur from using insanitary nail implements, especially in a salon, where the same implements are used on many people.

Unclean implements are especially dangerous if the skin around the nail is broken. This can occur with overzealous manicuring--if, for example, too much of the cuticle is cut or pushed back too far. If the cuticle is cut or separated from the fingernail, infectious agents can get into the exposed area. This is why dermatologists recommend leaving cuticles intact.

Symptoms of an infection include:

  • Pain, redness, itching, and pus in or around the nail area.
  • Yellow-green, green, and green-black nail discolorations are signs of a Pseudomonas bacterial infection.
  • A blue-green discoloration signals a fungal infection.

If an infection appears while wearing artificial nails, they should be removed and the area cleaned thoroughly with soap and water. If symptoms persist, the person should consult a doctor, who may prescribe a topical or oral anti-infective medicine.

There are no approved nonprescription products to treat fungal nail infections, and over-the-counter products to treat other types of fungal infections should not be used for nail infections. In a review of OTC antifungal products, FDA found that fungal infections of the nails respond poorly to topical therapy, partly because of the nail's thickness. So, in 1993, the agency ruled that any OTC product labeled, represented or promoted as a topical antifungal to treat fungal infections of the nail is a new drug and must be approved by FDA before marketing. This rule, which went into effect in 1994, does not include prescription antifungal products.

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