If you're a health-conscious beauty consumer, you're aware of the top ingredients to avoid in nail products: formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate, camphor, parabens, sulfates, lead, and acetone. These ingredients have been discussed to death, but did you know that there are a few more things we need to consider to protect our nails and our bodies from damage?
The new buzzword ingredient to avoid in nail products is Triphenol Phosphate (TPHP). TPHP was the subject of considerable controversy in late 2015 when a study demonstrated that TPHP is absorbed through the nails in statistically significant amounts. TPHP is an endocrine disruptor (which means it can disrupt the messaging to your cells, telling them to change or behave in ways that the body would not normally signal them to behave). TPHP is also a plasticizer and flame retardant. It was given low priority for testing after approval in 2010 because it caused minimal skin irritation and mild irritation to the eyes, but its absorption through the nails was never studied until recently.
Most of you are pretty savvy about which ingredients should be on the "don't use" list, but did you know that gel nails that have to be soaked in acetone and then pried with a spatula end up weakening nail beds significantly and making them more susceptible to fracture? Once gel nails are removed it takes fingernails six to nine months and toenails nine to twelve months to fully recover.
Inappropriately sized shoes are doing more than making your feet hurt.
I'm a podiatric surgeon, so I see this every day. People who wear the wrong size shoes are setting the stage for nail disease that mimics nail fungus. The constant pressure on the toenails from shoes that are too small can injure the nail bed and create nail damage called onychodystrophy (don't try to pronounce that at home) that looks exactly like nail fungus.
The only way you can accurately tell if you have a nail fungus is to do a nail biopsy. Once the nail is damaged from shoe gear, it's more susceptible to fungal infestation. The constant damp, dark environment of our shoe gear provides the perfect medium for nasty fungus to proliferate and, once infected, nail fungus is very difficult to cure. I find most people in my practice wear shoes that are one to two sizes too small. Do yourself a favor: Go a size bigger if you're always wanting a foot massage the second you take your shoes off at the end of the day.
You can leave polish on your nails too long (and most people do).
The amount of time product is left on the nails without removal will stain the nails. I see this every fall. Women will remove their pedicure that they have had on all summer, and their nails will be brown. They panic and think they have fungus, but their nails are really just stained. This staining can take almost a year to go away, so remove your polish every three weeks. Give your nails time to breathe for about a week in between getting a fresh manicure or pedicure.
Water-based polishes and manicures are no bueno.
Soaking nails in water weakens the nails for a certain period of time, making them more susceptible to fracture. Water opens the pores of the nails and skin and allows the chemicals used to "sanitize" the water to seep into the skin and nails at very high rates. If these chemicals are not used to clean the water, bacteria, yeast, fungus, and mold grow, which can cause infection. It's best to skip the water altogether. I am a huge advocate of the "dry manicure." This means no water is used to soak the nails, and your mani/pedi will last longer.