Is your manicure destroying your nails?

SINGAPORE - While that shiny polish may look pretty, it could be doing some damage to your nails.

Experts share tips on how to keep your nails healthy and what to watch out for.

Weakening your nails

Dr Harneet Ranu, a dermatology specialist at Raffles Aesthetics and Skin Centre, says: "Weak nails are commonly due to hereditary factors but can also be a reflection of dietary deficiencies and poor nail care."

Everyday cosmetic nail treatments can also cause serious damage to your nails, says Dr Ranu.

Chemicals in nail polish, such as formaldehyde, toluene and acetone, can also dry out and discolour your nails.

In fact, popular nail art using gel, acrylic or artificial glue-on nails can damage your nails if not applied properly, and in serious cases, may even cause the fingernail to detach from the nail bed.

Nail problems

Dermatologists tell The New Paper on Sunday all about the nail diseases they often encounter.

Subungual haematomas: Bleeding under the nail due to trauma.

Spoon nails: nails that curve upwards: This is often due to iron deficiency.

Fungal infection: Fungi can infect the nail plate, and where the nail and skin meet.

Manicurists cited fungal infections as a common problem. Ms Annricas Koh, owner of beauty salon Nails Bar says: "In Singapore's humidity, nails are more prone to fungal infection.

Choosing a reputable nail salon is crucial.

Repeated manicures and pedicures with non-sterilised equipment can transfer bacteria and other microbes to your nails, causing infection and inflammation. If that happens, you may need antibiotics.

Nails reflect your health

Nails are also reliable indicators of your general health, so pay attention to them.

Dr Eileen Tan, dermatologist and owner of Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic shares that brittle nails may reflect deficiencies in the body, such as a lack of biotin - an important vitamin for nail health.

Abnormal nail ridges can also be a sign of eczema and psoriasis.

Bad nails can be a sign of other health problems.

Pale/white nails: Anemia, renal or liver disease.

Small, black, splinter-like spots on nails: Heart disease such as infective endocarditis, or inflammation of the inner tissues of the heart

Yellow nails: Severe lung or kidney diseases

Black or brown discolouration: Haemorrhage (bleeding) or skin cancers such as melanoma

Dr Tan suggests seeking medical advice in all these cases.

Dos and Don'ts of maintaining healthy nails


- Apply thin coats of polish rather than one thick layer.

- Use moisturisers regularly and massage cuticle cream onto damaged nails. This is best done before bedtime. Massaging fingernails also stimulates blood flow to the fingertips and promotes nail growth.

- Wear gloves when you do housework.

- Eat foods rich in biotin (also known as vitamin B7) such as liver, eggs, whole grains and avocado to help strengthen and thicken your nails.

- Keep taking the multivitamins. You need a steady mix of vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and zinc to stave off dry and brittle nails.

- Invest in good nail polish with reliable ingredients.

- Allow your nails to go polish-free for a week every month to give them recovery time.

- Choose nail tips over full extensions, they are less likely to damage your nails as they cover a smaller surface area.

- Drink plenty of water to keep your nails hydrated.


- Don't bite your nails. It will transfer bacteria from the mouth to under the nails.

- Avoid excessive use of nail products such as nail varnish, acrylic nails, acetone-based nail removers and nail glue. The chemicals in them can discolour and dry out your nails.

- Avoid nail products containing formaldehyde or toluene as they damage your nails.

- Avoid prying things open with your fingers as this can damage your cuticles.

- Don't wear tight shoes for long periods as this will increase trauma to your feet and toenails.

- If you're prone to fungal infections, you'll need to air your feet.

- Don't use rough emery boards. They are too harsh on your nails and can cause cracks and fissures.

- Don't push your cuticles too far back. These are natural barriers to infection. Break them and your nail folds are open to damage.

Get The New Paper for more stories.