A Perfect Ten: How to Get Younger Looking Hands

Woman with young looking hands

A Perfect Ten

Your hands and fingernails take center stage in the summer. From healthy nail care to hand rejuvenation, Anita Fox PA-C explains how best to achieve younger looking hands and nails. 

What do healthy nails look like?

Fingernails are composed of laminated layers of a protein called keratin and grow from the area at the base of the nail under your cuticle. Healthy fingernails are considered to be smooth, without pits or grooves. They’re uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration. Sometimes fingernails develop harmless vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Vertical ridges tend to become more prominent with age. Fingernails can also develop white lines or spots due to injury, but these eventually grow out with the nail.

What is not normal on a nail?

  • Not all nail conditions are normal, however. Consult your dermatologist if you notice:
  • Changes in nail color, such as discoloration of the entire nail or a dark streak under the nail
  • Changes in nail shape, such as curled nails
  • Thinning or thickening of the nails
  • Separation of the nail from the surrounding skin
  • Bleeding around the nails
  • Swelling or pain around the nails

What are your tips on keeping fingernails looking their best?

  • Keep fingernails dry and clean. This prevents bacteria from growing under your fingernails. Repeated or prolonged contact with water can contribute to split fingernails. Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when washing dishes, cleaning or using harsh chemicals.
  • Practice good nail hygiene. Use sharp manicure scissors or clippers. Trim your nails straight across, then round the tips in a gentle curve.
  • Use moisturizer. When you use hand lotion, rub the lotion into your fingernails and cuticles, too.
  • Ask your doctor about biotin. Some research suggests that the nutritional supplement biotin might help strengthen weak or brittle fingernails

What are the best ways to prevent nail damage?

  • Don’t bite your fingernails or pick at your cuticles. These habits can damage the nail bed. Even a minor cut alongside your fingernail can allow bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection.
  • Don’t pull off hangnails. You might rip live tissue along with the hangnail. Instead, carefully clip off hangnails.
  • Don’t ignore problems. If you have a nail problem that doesn’t seem to go away on its own or is associated with other signs and symptoms, consult your dermatologist for an evaluation.
  • Don’t use harsh nail care products. Limit your use of nail polish remover. When using nail polish remover, opt for an acetone-free formula.

What products do you recommend to keep nails their healthiest?

There are tons of over the counter nail products out there but I like Just Natural skin care’s cuticle and nail serum. This formula is specially formulated to nourish, protect, and strengthen nails and cuticles with a special blend of antioxidant and antibacterial all nutritive ingredients: Super plant oil sea buckthorn and kukui nut and

more are loaded with vitamins and nutrients that help refresh and restore your cuticles. jojoba, castor and Manuka oils help to soften, soothe and protect as this formula absorbs quickly. Pure Vitamin E moisturizes and replenishes for healthy nails and cuticles.

Another OTC product I like is Barielle’s intensive nail renewal oil. It contains sesame, safflower, sunflower and coconut oil, keratin, vitamin E and calcium. It replicates the body’s natural oils and lipids to restore cuticles and reduce further nail breakage and it contains no formaldehyde or dibutyl phthalate, ingredients which can be drying and damaging to nails.

As for prescribed treatments for the nails, I recommend Genadur by Medimetriks Pharmaceuticles. It’s a hydrosoluble nail lacquer that can be used under nail polish to help dry, brittle, splitting nails. It also comes in a kit that contains a 90 day supply of Biotin, a dietary supplement that promotes healthy skin, hair and nails.

What are your thoughts about getting manis/pedis at a salon? Is it risky?

It seems like everyone gets their nails professionally done these days and I think it fine as long as you take a few precautions beforehand:

  • Stick to salons that display a current state license, and work only with technicians also licensed by the state board.
  • Don’t have your cuticles removed — it can lead to nail infection.
  • Make sure your nail technician properly sterilizes all tools used during your procedure to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Ask how the foot baths are cleaned. Ideally, a bleach solution is used between clients and the filters are cleaned regularly.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask, “Can you show me how you disinfect your pedicure chairs? Can you show me your cleaning log? Are you using single-use files on me?”
  • A good technician always wears gloves which can help reduce the transfer of bacteria to a client.
  • Also, never shave your legs before having a pedicure as it creates a portal of entry for bacteria to get into the skin.
  • Find out if they use a new pumice for each pedicure and new nail files for each new client. Alternatively, you could bring your own files and tools for them to use on you during your appointment.
  • If you’re getting a gel manicure, find out if the salon uses a UVB device to harden the gel or if they use a LCD powered device. If it’s UVB, you should make sure to apply at least a 30 SPF to your hands prior to your appointment to prevent potential sun damage. (Don’t forget, UV radiation is considered the main cause of non-melanoma skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

It’s easy to overlook these precautions, but taking some basic steps can keep your skin and nails healthy and strong.

What infections have you seen people contract from nail salons?

One thing available at nail salons that’s not posted on any service menu is a contagious skin disease. With all the hands and feet passing through a salon each day, the odds are solid that some of those diseases could be passed on to you. Here are a few of them:

  • Warts: Warts are caused by a contagious virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many different strains of the virus (such as the type that can cause cervical cancer), but only a few different kinds spur the overproduction of skin cells that results in warts. Warts spread through person-to-person contact when HPV makes contact with a break in the skin. Hands play host to both common warts and palmer warts. The tops of feet may also have common warts, while the bottoms can have plantar warts, which grow inward due to constant pressure between the foot and the ground. All of these are contagious. Warts can be spread if a salon worker uses the same pumice stone or nail file for multiple clients.
  • Fungus: Tinea pedis (fungus of the skin on the feet) and tinea unguium (fungus of the nails) are fungal infections that require a moist, confined environment to take root and spread. Unfortunately, the pedicure baths of a salon provide a breeding ground. If a spa doesn’t regularly clean its foot tubs between each client, the odds of leaving the spa with a fungal infection you didn’t walk in with increase. Also, fungus isn’t so easily removed from the surfaces it grows on, so a light cleaning may not rid a tub of its presence. Frequent use of an anti-fungal cleaning agent is the best way to prevent spa clients from getting athlete’s foot from a foot tub.
  • MRSA: Though not common, MRSA is known to spread at nail salons, leading to infections on hands and beneath fingernails. Symptoms usually appear within 24 hours — you’ll likely experience pain in your hands and be unable to bend or use your fingers with any degree of comfort. The swollen, red skin around the infected area will crack open and ooze pus. It’s hard to miss. MRSA can be spread through the sharing of unsanitized nail files or other nail implements.
  • Mycobacterium fortuitum: You can get Mycobacterium fortuitum from foot baths and the risk is greatly increased when a soak is preceded by leg shaving. The bacteria causes large boils on the toe, foot or leg. These boils may be surrounded by smaller bumps. Sometimes they heal on their own, but they can linger and even turn into open sores. M. fortuitum boils can be lanced by a medical professional and treated with extremely potent antibiotics, but unfortunately, these boils and sores can cause heavy scarring.

Remember that if a salon is properly cleaning and sanitizing their equipment and if you follow the precautions above, you should be fine.

Is it safe to have your cuticles cut?

Trimming or cutting cuticles during a manicure is purely cosmetic and doesn’t benefit the nail in any way. In fact, it’s actually harmful to your nails. The small area of skin is there to protect your nails from infection. When this skin is removed, your nail is left unprotected from bacteria and fungus

What treatments do you love for hand rejuvenation?

There are several techniques available for hand rejuvenation, some are more invasive than others. These can be used alone or in combination to enhance the overall results. After having a consultation, you will be recommended an approach based upon your treatment needs and aesthetic goals:

  • Using Your Own Fat: Autologous fat grafting (also known as fat transfer), re-injects your own natural fatty tissue into your hands to add volume, cover underlying vessels and tendons, and improve the quality of your skin over time. It is important to note that if you have poor circulation from vascular disease, diabetes, chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS and smoking you may not get as much of the graft volume to take as other patients.
  • Fillers: Dermal fillers, such as polylactic acid, calcium hydroxylapatite or hyaluronic acid, can be used to add volume to your hands and fill in around protruding bones and veins.
  • Resurfacing: Chemical peels, intense pulsed light (IPL), or laser skin resurfacing may be used to treat fine wrinkles, skin discoloration, sun damage or age spots.
  • PDT: Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses a solution with IPL for more aggressive treatment of irregular pigmentation or brown spots.
  • Vein Removal: Sclerotherapy or laser vein treatments can treat noticeable or protruding veins.

How does having healthy hands contribute to your overall look of healthiness?

Besides the face, the hands are one of the first places where the telltale signs of aging become apparent. Even if you have taken steps to keep your face and neck looking youthful, sun-damaged, veiny, wrinkled hands can make you look older than you are. Maintaining healthy nails and improving the quality and texture of the skin on your hands, while decreasing the pigmentation, wrinkling, volume loss and prominent veins can effectively take years off your age and give you an overall more youthful and healthy appearance.

Anita Fox Skin Expert Schweiger Dermatology GroupAnita Fox, PA-C sees patients at Schweiger Dermatology Group’s West Orange dermatology office in New Jersey.

About Schweiger Dermatology Group

Schweiger Dermatology Group was founded to help make excellent dermatology care accessible throughout the Northeast. In 2010, Dr. Eric Schweiger started the practice with a single location in Midtown Manhattan. When he saw the need for high-quality dermatology care that did not require weeks or months of waiting to see a qualified provider, his vision of a multi-location practice was born.

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