Keeping your nails and hands safe

Last week we looked at the harm the process of applying gel nails can do to the nail bed and to the hands. This week we are going to look at tips and hints for keeping your nails and hands safe, whether you continue with gel nails or not.

Repeatedly putting a variety of chemicals on your nails is never a safe process. However, there are precautions you can take to help reduce the risk.

Use a physical UV shield. Last week we looked at the UVA light in the nail gel lamp, used to cure nail gels. This is more forceful than the sun’s rays. Dermatologist and nail specialist Chris Adigun says we should ensure that the shield goes up far enough to cover the wrists. She also advises against the use of regular gloves (with the tips cut off), not even the ones with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating. “Not all gloves have a true UPF rating. Many that are made in China do not even have the certificate, even though they say they are UPF protective,” she says.

The best product she has found is the YouVeeShield (, which is big enough to fit everyone. It folds up small and can be used on the feet and hands. It is flexible enough to push it up, past the fingers, when having a manicure and pull it down again for protection when under the nail gel lamp.

Don’t wear contact lenses when going to a nail salon. Soft contact lenses absorb vapours from the air and may even scratch the surface of the eye. After a nail treatment, make sure to wash your hands before touching the area around your eyes.

Don’t let your nail aesthetician drill or use a high-speed file to remove the previous gels. Drilling, chipping or sanding away old gels damages your nails, making them more porous and brittle.

If sanding is unavoidable, cover your mouth and nose, as best you can, to avoid inhaling the fine dust produced by the procedure.

Check whether the lamp your salon uses to cure the nails is wavelength-specific to your gel product. Each gel brand specifies the type and wavelength to be used.

Choose salons that are well ventilated.

Place raw apple cider vinegar in warm water for a healthy nail soak that contains micronutrients

Don’t take children with you to a nail salon. They are especially susceptible to the toxic effects of the fumes.

Never eat or drink in a nail salon. Liquids and foods can absorb toxins directly from the air.

Let’s look at a recipe for naturally healthy nails. Bone collagen and nail keratin are both structural proteins, and healthy nails are a direct indicator of overall bone health. Like so many things in life, the best way to set the stage for healthy nails is a healthy diet with high levels of hydration.

A nail-healthy diet

• Proteins – such as organic lean meats and chicken.

• Foods with high levels of vitamin B12, omega 3 fats and zinc, such as salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel and oysters.

• Nuts, eggs and beans are high in biotin and vitamin E; eggs are also high in vitamin D, crucial for bone and nail health.

• Flaxseeds have most of the micronutrients needed for healthy nails, plus omega 3 fats.

• Oats are a great source of micronutrients such as copper, zinc, manganese, silica and B-complex vitamins. These are all important for nail health.

• Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, dandelion greens, green beans and broccoli are all rich in calcium and magnesium, both essential for healthy bones and nails.

• Seeds, bananas, avocados and chocolate are great sources of magnesium.

• Green tea is bursting with antioxidants that help strengthen nails.

• Plenty of spring water, and avoid beverages that dry out your system, like coffee and alcohol.

• If you should have dry nails, or nail infections, there are many solutions around the house to help you:

• Tea tree oil and the medium-chain fatty acids in virgin coconut oil are antibacterial/antifungal and help treat nail infections. Add tea tree oil to any of the oils mentioned below, as they also moisturise and strengthen nails.

• Soak fingertips in warm olive oil, coconut, flaxseed or vitamin E oils. Massage the nails for about 15 minutes before bed. Instead of rinsing off with warm water, wear cotton gloves to bed and let the oil continue to soak in, overnight.

• Place raw apple cider vinegar in an equal amount of warm water for a healthy nail soak that contains vital micronutrients; this can also help to treat and prevent fungal infections.

Cleansing or removing polish and taking care of nails

Baking soda is a great nail cleaner; using a wet toothbrush, lightly scrub the tops and under the nails.

Lemon juice and white vinegar work together as polish remover. Combine one tablespoon of each and soak nails for five to 10 minutes, then dip a cotton ball into the mixture and use it to gently remove the polish.

Use natural, non-toxic polishes. There are a surprising number of non-toxic polishes on the market today. The favourites are those with the least amount of chemicals: Suncoat, Zoya, RGB and Honeybee Gardens. While they don’t last as long as gels, you can go the more natural route for every day and leave gel polish for special occasions.

Gels that don’t use UV light to cure. There are a few gels on the market (still read the labels) where tests have shown they last for four or five days.

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