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How Fingernails Work

Caring for Fingernails

Basic nail care is fairly simple, and contributes greatly to overall nail health. By incorporating nail care into your normal routine, it also allows you to grow familiar enough with your normal nail health to notice when abnormal issues arise.

The first step is to keep your nails clean and dry to prevent bacterial and fungal infections, and never cut or remove your cuticles, as this can cause infections. Improve the strength of your nails by trimming them straight across and rounding them slightly with a nail file. This also helps to prevent ingrown fingernails. File nail snags as soon as possible to prevent them from catching on things such as clothing, which can tear the nail into the nail bed [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Prevent damage by rubbing hand lotion into your nails and nail bed. This will help to strengthen your nails and prevent splitting. Also, try to avoid using your nails to pick or pry at things, as this can also cause damage to your nails [source: Mayo Clinic].

One of the most important things you can do is not bite your nails. As mentioned earlier, nail biting can cause infections not only around your nails, but also in your mouth. Chronic nail biting can lead to abnormal nail growth, and even nail deformities. To prevent nail biting, try applying acrylic nails or use a bitter-tasting polish until you are able to break the habit. Because nail biting is often a stress-associated activity, consider learning a stress management technique, such as yoga or meditation, that works for you [source: WebMD].

Whether you wear them short and unpolished or use them to express your personality by adorning them with color and jewels, nails -- and their health -- are important, so don't neglect them. Not only are they a canvas for self-expression, they also tell us when we might be ill, so be sure to give your fingernails the attention they deserve.

If you would like to learn more about your fingernails, check out some of the resources on the next page.