Who among us doesn't feel better when we have a great set of nails to show off? Going to the salon and getting the works is one thing, but what are the steps to caring for those gorgeous nails all week long?

Paula Begoun tells us the dos and don'ts of nail care from her book, The Beauty Bible (Beginning Press):

  • Do coat the outside of the nails with polish or ridge fillers, which can help protect the nail and prevent breaking and splitting, at least while the manicure lasts.
  • Do moisturize the cuticle area to prevent cracking and peeling, which can hurt the matrix.
  • Do wear gloves to protect nails and cuticles from housework, gardening and washing dishes.
  • Do be cautious when doing office work. Nails and cuticles take a beating filing, opening letters (use a letter opener), typing (use the flat of your finger pads on the keyboard instead of the tips of your nails) and handling papers.
  • Do apply hand cream frequently, especially after you're done washing your hands, and pay attention to the cuticle area.
  • Do wear a sunscreen during the day on your hands and cuticles to prevent sun damage, which can hurt your nails. Reapply every time you wash your hands.
  • Do meticulously clean all nail implements and change nail files often. Bacteria and other microbes can get transferred by the nail tools you use, causing infection or harm to the matrix.
  • Do disinfect any tears or cuts to the cuticle, and treat ingrown nails as soon as possible. Nail infections are not only unsightly, but also can cause long-lasting damage to the nail. Any drugstore antibacterial ointment, such as Polysporin, Neosporin or Bacitracin, will do.
  • Don't use nail products that contain formaldehyde or toluene. They pose health risks for the nail and for your entire body as well.
  • Don't use fingernails as tools to pry things open.
  • Don't use your fingers as letter openers. That destroys the cuticles, which destroys the nail matrix and affects nail growth and strength.
  • Don't soak nails for long periods, and never use any kind of soap or detergent when soaking. Nails and cuticles that become engorged with water weaken, and the longer soap or detergent is in contact with skin and nails (despite the advertisements for Palmolive dish detergent) the greater the potential for damaging the nail and cuticle structure.
  • Don't overuse any kind of nail-polish remover. Use a minimal amount on the nail and avoid getting too much on the cuticle and skin.
  • Don't push the cuticle back too far. Leave the cuticle alone as much as possible. Trim only the part of the cuticle that has started to lift away from the nail.
  • Don't allow any manicurist to touch your hands with utensils that have not been properly sterilized. The importance of this step cannot be stressed enough. Risking your health and well-being for a manicure is just not worth it, and that is a definite possibility with bacteria-laden nail instruments!
  • Don't pull or tear at hangnails. Always gently cut them away, leaving the cuticle intact and as untampered with as possible.
  • Don't ignore nail or cuticle inflammation. Disinfect the skin as soon as you can with an antibacterial or antifungal agent. Any change to the nail's appearance needs to be checked out by a dermatologist.

For more nail care tips, visit Paula's web site, www.cosmeticscop.com.