Caring for Your Nails at Home

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Tosti

By Antonella Tosti, M.D.
Dermatologist

 

You may wonder what your nails have to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With stay-home orders in place, many of you are trying to maintain the appearance of your nails without going to a salon. As a dermatologist, my expertise goes beyond appearances to focus on nail health. I want to share some tips on how to keep your nails healthy during this pandemic.

Keep your nails very short.

The space under the nail is frequently colonized by bacteria and viruses. When you wash your hands, don’t neglect the space under the nail. Effectively cleaning this area is much more difficult when your nails are long.

Don't wear nail polish at this time.

In particular, don’t wear gel nail polish. Data shows that gels can interfere with medical devices placed on the fingertip to measure your pulse. If you need to see a doctor or enter an emergency room, they will use the pulse oximetry test, which measures the oxygen level (oxygen saturation) of your blood. Gel polish may give medical professionals inaccurate information about your pulse.

Care for your cuticles.

It’s incredibly important to keep the periungual area (the skin and tissue around your nails) healthy. When you wash your hands often, you risk damaging the cuticle. The cuticle is a seal that prevents environmental particles from reaching the nail. Never cut the cuticle. If you see some roughness there, you can moisturize the cuticle.

Treat periungual inflammation.

When the cuticle is damaged, the skin just below it, which is called the proximal nail fold, can become inflamed. This condition is called paronychia. Keep in mind that this inflammation is not due to a bacterial or fungal infection. So, you don’t need antibiotics nor antifungal medication. Instead, try to keep the area dry. When you wash your hands, always dry them very well. Never wear gloves when your hands are moist/humid. If the proximal nail fold inflammation is severe, try an over-the-counter corticosteroid, like hydrocortisone, to reduce redness and irritation.

Look out for patchiness.

COVID-19 infection can affect the skin around the nail. This develops as patches that look like a cold injury. If you develop this type of patches, see a doctor to rule out infection with the novel coronavirus.


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