Nails, like hair, grow from the matrix. As older nail cells grow out, new cells replace them. The older cells are compacted and take on a hardened form. The average growth rate for nails is 0.1 mm each day, although individual rates depend on age, time of year, activity level and heredity. For instance, natural nails may grow more rapidly in the summer than in the winter. Nails on a person's dominant hand grow faster and men's nails grow more quickly than women's.
Nail disorders can affect your patients’ ability to pick up small objects and their sense of touch. The main reason for most nail care challenges is the lack of bonding between calcium and the other components within the nail. The bonding is often impaired due to daily use and abuse of our nails as well as routine hand washing. Since the nail is porous, it absorbs water, which causes it to expand. Your fingernails absorb water 100 times faster than your skin does and they lose the moisture just as fast as they absorb it. Your patients need to remember that water and moisture are not the same for the natural nail. Moisture is healing, whereas water is drying for the nail.
Nail care expert, Doris Crary, explains the effect of water to the natural nail. “Imagine the natural nail is a piece of wood. When you apply paint or water -- the wood or nail absorbs the liquid and expands. The wood then contracts, yet not all of the liquid is able to escape. This liquid remains in the pores of the wood and in time causes the wood to rot. The natural nail has the same reaction and this trapped water causes the nail to face many challenges.”
Crary continues, “Due to daily tasks and jobs your patients’ nails can face water-based challenges. The simple task of washing your hands several times a day will leave your natural nails in harms way. Individuals in the food/beverage industry, health care industry and the beauty industry are the most susceptible to water-based challenges due to the amount of hand washing and sterilizing that occurs on a daily basis. However, patients that work with computers, chalk and in the outdoors also face many daily challenges from wear and tear to their nails.”
Water-Based Nail Care Challenges:
Peeling & Flaking: Nails need to be nourished and strengthened, similar to the needs of our teeth and hair. When a client has a layer of the nail coming away from the rest of the nail -- `peeling’ and `flaking’ are to blame. This is a natural and normal reaction to dryness and it can usually be cured or combated with intensive moisturizing treatments provided by professional nail care artists.
Cracking & Splitting: The constant stress of the nail expanding and contracting often becomes the culprit of unsightly splits and cracks. These problems can be overcome with intense moisture and a fluoride strengthener.
Dry Cuticles: The cuticle is another important part of a healthy nail because it forms a seal between the nail and the skin at the top of the finger so that irritants cannot gain access. When the cuticle is clipped or removed with small nippers or metal scrapers that are not properly sanitized before a manicure or pedicure, it can result in an infection. Excessive exposure to water can also eventually take the moisture out of the cuticle and cause it to become dry.
Soft & Weak Nails: The nail plate is designed to bend or break when stressed. If your patients wear nail enhancements that are too long and they put too much pressure on the nail, with activities such as opening soda cans with the nails, the force of the stress will be transferred to the nail bed. This results in separation of the nail from the nail bed, creating a moist, warm space under the nail where bacteria or yeast can grow.
Short & Brittle Nails: Brittle nails usually break or peel off in horizontal layers, starting at the free end of the nail. Brittle nails may be a result of trauma to the nails, including repeated wetting and drying, excessive exposure to harsh detergents as well as exposure to harsh solvents, such as those found in some nail polish removers.
The natural nail can also be susceptible to other challenges as a result of the use of artificial nail products and habits.
Drill Damage: Artificial nails require the use of a drill for initial application and maintenance. Using a drill on the nail raises the moisture level of the nail to 25 percent. Fungi and bacteria grow on the nail at a moisture level of 28 percent. There is a narrow margin for error there. If your moisture level becomes elevated above 25 percent, moisture becomes trapped and the likelihood of infection escalates. Signs of a fungal or bacterial infection are discoloration, thickening of the nail plate, lifting of the nail away from the nail bed or the development of soft, spongy areas. One should seek treatment from a physician should any of these symptoms occur. Repairing drill damage is possible and can be achieved by moisturizing the nail and strengthening the layers.
Bitten Nails: Nail biting is a common problem, especially among young children. While the habit typically disappears with age, it has been linked to anxiety with older children and adults. Not only does nail biting ruin the look of your patient’s nails, it is also a good way to transfer infectious organisms from the fingers to the mouth and vice versa. Nail biting can damage the skin surrounding the nails, allowing infections to enter and spread. Applying a bad tasting nail polish or liquid to the nail is the most effective way to deter biting.
How to Overcome These Challenges:
Although unsightly, these common challenges can be reversed with regular maintenance and the use of professional salon and spa nail care treatments. It’s time to help your clients and patients’ trade in their ordinary nails – for extraordinary nails!