We all know the drill by now: Keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet), wear a face mask and wash your hands or douse them in disinfectant for at least 30 seconds. That's the key to keeping COVID-19 away.
But all the water, soap and alcohol solutions have taken a toll on our skin health, especially our hands. Our nails have, in particular, been suffering, leaving them dry, peeling and growing slowly.
Considering that fingernails can harbor a lot of dirt and debris and coronavirus' first route of transmission is via contact, keeping our hands, and by extension our nails, clean is crucial. Up until now, doctors have recommended washing hands thoroughly making sure to get the underside of the nails as well, and if possible using a nailbrush each time you wash your hands. However, just washing may not be enough as there are many nooks and crannies germs can hide in on the nails.
Dermatology specialist Mehtap Kıdır says that it is just as important to keep nails short and trim them frequently as it is to clean them properly. Having long and artificial nails could also allow the spread of the virus.
So when caring for your nails, especially during a pandemic, here are nine rules you should be following:
Wash your hands with soapy water
Whether it is from alcohol-based hand sanitizers or washing them with handwash, our nails have been subjected to a lot of cleaning agents, which might have caused them to become more dry and brittle, making them easier to break, split or peel. To counter the harshness of this updated hygiene routine but still stay safe from the coronavirus, try to wash your hands with plain unscented soap and water instead of disinfectants and sanitizers.
Keep your nails short and sweet
As fun as it is to have fun long nails when matters come to infections and pandemics, dermatologists recommend keeping your nails as short and tidy as possible.
However, Kıdır points out that just because you have short nails does not mean bacteria and other organisms won't be able to embed themselves under them, stressing that people should be paying extra attention to cleaning underneath and around their nails while washing their hands. The nails should also be dried after the hands are dried, she says.
Don't go too deep
You should show the same care and attention you show to your hands to your nails as well. Keeping them short is important, but if you go too deep you may expose too much of the nailbed, leaving it vulnerable to infections. Kıdır says catching infections is the last thing people want, considering the current situation with COVID-19.
"You should cut the nails on your hands in a crescent shape (rounded), and leave 1 to 2 millimeters of the white part (the dead keratin) at the end intact," she says.
Stop biting your nails
Because hands, via touching the mouth, nose or eyes, is the foremost transition route of the coronavirus, giving up habits such as nail-biting, cuticle picking and chewing is essential. Engaging in such behavior may also lead to sores and small open wounds, which is an invitation for all germs and can facilitate the spread of the virus.
If you see a chip or crack, start over
No matter what color you choose, having neatly painted nails does make you seem more put together. However, all the chips and cracks that start to form three to four days after painting your nails may be a cause for concern, and not just for vanity purposes. Such gaps and cracks in nail polish are perfect homes for microorganisms to settle in, says Kıdır. She says try to skip the polish as much as you can and embrace bare nails instead.
False nails are just too risky
Warning that having false acrylic nails poses a much greater risk than your usual nail polishes, Kıdır says: "(Regardless of COVID), studies have shown that artificial nails contain more bacteria than natural nails."
But if you still can't part with your pointy talons, it's important to keep them extra clean.
Time to glove-up for cleaning
With all the daily cleaning using detergents and bleach, our hands and nails are suffering. To minimize contact and prevent your hands and nails from drying out, dermatologists recommend using gloves while cleaning. Cotton-lined plastic or vinyl gloves are a good option.
Your nails need moisturizing, too
Make a habit of applying moisturizer immediately after washing your hands to prevent your skin and nails from drying or cracking. Look for creams that contain natural oils such as coconut oil, linseed oil and almond oil, which have great moisturizing properties and can help nourish and strengthen nails by providing a barrier.
"If you massage these oils into your nails and cuticles during the day, it will help your nails to become stronger and healthier," Kıdır says.
If you want to turn it into a pampering session, apply a mixture of these oils on your hands in the evening and wear some gloves or plastic bags for 30 minutes for an extra dose of nourishment.
Keratin, nails' building block
Stating that the basic structural protein of nails is keratin, Kıdır says: “Keratin is found in our hair, nails, skin and teeth. In cases of keratin deficiency, we see a lot of nail breakage and hair loss problems. To combat this and strengthen your nails, consume foods such as broccoli, cabbage, garlic, leeks, onion, fish, yogurt and milk, all of which are rich in keratin."
To have sufficient and healthy keratin production, the body also needs certain minerals and vitamins. Kıdır says if you have deficiencies in iron, B12 and folic acid, which are all involved in keratin production, your nails can become very weak and brittle. So if you strive for beautiful, strong and healthy nails, you first need to address these concerns and get your vitamins in check. Following a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vegetables and fruits, will also help your nails.