from Vera Martinella

Traditional or semi-permanent nail polish? How should they be cut to avoid bacterial contamination? The rules to know and an obligation: the nails must be allowed to “breathe” at regular intervals

Manicured nails and super-colored enamels. To understand how flawless manicures and pedicures, often matching the clothing, have become a trend, just look around. Even the shops that offer the service in a very short time have sprung up everywhere like mushrooms. The costs, especially for those managed by Chinese entrepreneurs (very numerous in large cities), are often low and allow you to frequently indulge in this colorful pleasure. Without considering that the arrival of semi-permanent nail polishes and gels, which last a few weeks and not a few days like traditional ones, allows you to feel tidy for long periods. But don’t the nails suffer from this constant change of varnish, without ever being left free to “breathe”?

The weather

«Nail polishes can weaken the nail structure, predisposing to a greater risk of fragility and onychomycosis» replies Antonino Di Pietro, dermatologist and director of the Dermoclinic Institute of Milan. «They should preferably be kept for a maximum of 15-15 consecutive days. It is also important to allow a few days of pause between the application of an enamel and the next, to allow proper oxygenation and better nourishment of both the matrix and the nail plate. Especially when using semi-permanent ones, which contain substances such as resins and phthalates, which cause a greater occlusive effect than traditional formulas ». The healthy nail looks like a roughly rectangular lamina, with a semi-hard consistency, pink in color, with a slightly convex, smooth, shiny and semi-transparent surface. “Changes to the nails in shape, color and consistency can be the signal of a variety of disorders such as dietary deficiencies, traumas, systemic diseases, as well as infections or skin diseases, including cancer” explains Antonio Costanzo, head of the Unit Dermatology Operative at the Humanitas Clinical Institute in Milan. The risks associated with aggressive manicures and pedicures (do-it-yourself or entrusted to non-professional operators) can be of various types.


“In recent years, for example, cases of mycosis and infections triggered by fungi and bacteria that penetrate the nail plate through cuts or abrasions have significantly increased” underlines Di Pietro. «A badly done job can also lead to serious weakening of the nails, which thus begin to flake and break easily. To avoid this, it is important to follow simple precautions, starting with the way you cut your nails. The ideal is to cut them square, but rounded at the corners, preferring the cardboard file instead of the more aggressive metal one. During the manicure the perionichium should never be removed, that is the “skin” that is at the base of the nail and serves to protect it. Removing it, in fact, favors the entry of bacteria, viruses and fungi, and thus opens the way to mycosis and painful infections. Finally, to clean the nails gently, you can use brushes with soft bristles, after immersing your hands for a minute in hot water. On the other hand, sharp objects must be scrupulously avoided which, in addition to being able to cause wounds, push dirt deeply, facilitating infections ». To apply and dry semi-permanent nail polishes and gels quickly, lamps that emit ultraviolet radiation are used. However, many scientific studies have shown that, as with the sun, UV rays and artificial grapes can cause sunburn, skin aging and skin cancers. So much so that tanning lamps have for years been cataloged as carcinogenic and forbidden to minors. Although research has also been conducted on the possible damage during manicures and pedicures, it is difficult to measure the real danger to any single person.

The protection

«The equipment used in beauty salons could cause damage to the skin» continues Di Pietro. «To activate the chemical processes necessary to dry these products, the lamps emit ultraviolet rays which, although of short duration, are very intense. For years we have learned that it is essential to protect ourselves from UV rays when we expose ourselves to the sun because, by penetrating deeply, this radiation is responsible for photo-aging and also increases the risk of developing skin tumors. Fortunately, the solution exists. During the treatments it is sufficient to protect the hands by wearing special gloves that leave only the nails uncovered ».

Reconstruction with gel

What are the possible damages of the gels? «The gel cover can weaken your nails, especially when you already have a tendency to have them fragile» continues Di Pietro. «In fact, the gel does not allow the nail to breathe, which can therefore weaken and break more easily. Furthermore, in cases of hypersensitivity to acrylates, substances that make up these products, there is the risk of manifesting contact dermatitis. However, gel nail reconstruction should not be demonized. To avoid potential problems it is important to carry out treatments only on perfectly healthy nails. Furthermore, the reconstruction must be performed by professionals experienced in the reconstruction and application of artificial nails for aesthetic purposes, who in addition to being graduates use products regulated by European legislation, among the most stringent in the field. Instead, it is advisable to avoid buying products from non-EEC countries on the web, which may not be compliant ». What about the products to remove them? “It is important to use certified ones” concludes Costanzo. «Nail polish removers do not cause toxicity. Acetone can cause more problems if inhaled for a long time or if it remains in contact with the skin for too long. However, there are many products to remove the nail polish without acetone, preferable to those that contain it. For the health of the nails, “natural” periods are necessary because, especially in the case of gels that require filing of the nail to be removed, it is possible that the trauma favors nail dystrophies. And, if done incorrectly, it can facilitate infections or growth alterations (ingrown toenail). Particularly for the toenails it is advisable to leave them “at rest” in the winter period ».

Tips for “good maintenance”

There are several factors that can cause the nails to weaken. Powder and detergents have an irritating action that can damage the keratin, the main component of the nail. Even water, especially hot, can cause weakening. Therefore, always wear gloves while doing housework. It is also advisable to be careful when washing your hands, using delicate detergents, remembering to dry them carefully: humidity can favor the flaking of the nails. Another essential aspect is nutrition. To strengthen the nails it is important to introduce eggs, milk and derivatives into the diet, because they contain calcium, but also fruit and vegetables, foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Berries are very useful, as they are rich in bioflavonoids, substances capable of improving microcirculation. Finally, hydration should not be forgotten: to prevent the nails from flaking it is necessary to drink a lot of water.

September 18, 2021 (change September 18, 2021 | 20:08)


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