The way that your nails look can provide a number of clues about the health of the rest of your body. The color of the nail itself can be a warning sign of a fungal infection, malnutrition, or disease. Puffy nail beds can indicate illness.1
Dry cuticles are not usually a sign of disease, however, but rather something that can occur in the winter simply because of the lack of moisture in the air causing the cuticles to dry out.2
It is not uncommon for people who work in kitchens or with chemicals and cleaners to suffer from dry cuticles as well. Nevertheless, it is important to take care of your cuticles because if the cuticles become cracked and damaged, this may allow bacteria to infect the nail bed.
Taking Care of Your Nails
If you are worried about the health of your nails and cuticles, then you should implement a regular nail care routine:3
- Trim your nails regularly and cut back loose or torn nails
- Clean under your fingernails with a soft brush
- Apply hand cream to your nails regularly
- Wear rubber gloves when you are working with cleaning products
- Try not to pick or bite your nails
- Treat fungal infections as soon as you notice them
If you notice that the bed of your nail is red, swollen, or sore, then this could be a sign of an infection called paronychia, which can occur if bacteria make it past the protective cuticle and unto the nail bed. This will usually get better within a few days if you keep the area clean and try to avoid further damage to it. If the infection does not get better quickly or it is very painful, then you should seek advice from a doctor.4
Caring for Your Cuticles
Cuticles are quite resilient because their job is to protect the nail bed. Even so, it is important to take good care of them, keeping them clean and moisturizing them so that they don’t crack or dry out. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on moisturizing nail creams to keep your cuticles looking their best. You can make your own nail baths and lotions using essential oils.
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Some of the best oils to use on your nails include lavender, frankincense, lemon, and eucalyptus essential oils. These oils are versatile, gentle oils that are generally well-tolerated and have antimicrobial, antibacterial, and moisturizing effects.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is a mild and gentle essential oil with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, making it a good choice for any skin care blend. In fact, lavender is often used as a preservative in commercial moisturizers and skin creams.5
Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense is a popular essential oil that, according to folk remedies, can help with nail growth. It is also known for having moisturizing properties and for helping protect the nails, skin, and cuticles from infection. It is also an anti-fungal, like most other essential oils. Studies show that frankincense can help with may skin issues.6
Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil can help keep your nails looking shiny and clean, and it’s a good antifungal agent too, preventing infection in the cuticles. This essential oil is also rich in antioxidants which makes it popular for a number of cosmetic applications.7
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus oil is a moisturizing oil that helps promote blood flow and fight off infection. Studies show that eucalyptus oil is effective for treating fungal infections of the nails and that it also helps clear up an infection of the skin around the nails. This makes it an affordable and effective treatment option for those who have superficial infections.8
Safety and Precautions
Most essential oils are too harsh to apply directly to the skin, and they are also quite volatile, so if you were to use them in their undiluted form, then they would evaporate before they were properly absorbed into the skin.
You should dilute essential oils at a ratio of one to two drops of essential oil to 10mL of carrier oil for best results. Carrier oils are milder oils such as coconut or jojoba oil. These will help the essential oil be better absorbed into the skin. Thicker, creamier oils are good for body butter while a slightly more watery oil is good for use on the nails.
To apply oil to the cuticles, put a few drops on a small cotton bud and wipe it over the nails. Alternatively, you can make a nail soak using one cup of water, one tablespoon of light carrier oil such as camellia or jojoba oil, and up to 15 drops of essential oils.
Always use a carrier oil, even when adding essential oils to water. The carrier oil will help the essential oil disperse properly in the water. If you do not do this, then you run the risk of the oil irritating your skin. Even a few drops in a bathtub could prove irritating to sensitive skin.9
Essential oils are generally safe for a healthy adult to use. However, you should always check the labels and safety information for each oil. Do not use essential oils on babies or children without checking with a pediatrician first. Even home remedies that are perfectly safe for adults can sometimes be dangerous for children.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or you are taking prescription medications, then you should consult your doctor before using any essential oils. Even if you are already using oils in your beauty routine, it is wise to confirm that they are safe, since some essential oils may actually interact with common drugs such as diabetes medicines or blood thinners.
Cuticle health is especially important because it is related to nail health. Dry cuticles can be a common issue for many, so finding a way to moisturize them, especially during the dry winter months can be good for your health but also a great self-care technique. Try out some of the essential oil and carrier oil combinations described above to see what works for you and enjoy the benefits they’ll provide for your nails and cuticles.
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