As an advocate of the at-home mani, I have decided to share some common myths and corresponding truths about nails. First and foremost, it is important to keep your hands and nails moisturized. If possible, use a lotion with sun protection, especially if you plan on spending time outside. Hands show age very quickly and can develop skin cancer sooner than other parts of the body. For the best results, apply moisturizer to your hands and nails immediately after washing and right before bed.
Where nail painting is concerned, wearing nail polish is not dangerous. The dangerous part is inhaling the toxic solvents, which keep the paint in liquid state. To avoid inhaling these solvents, be sure to use nail polish indoors with a window open, or outdoors in the shade. I would also recommend wearing a surgical mask if you are exposed to these fumes for an extended period of time. Yes, this may sound silly, but studies have shown that the inhalation of solvent vapours when pregnant can lead to birth defects. Now you aren't going to be coming into contact with mass amounts of harmful chemicals when you paint your nails every so often, but just keep in mind that most lacquer, paint and glue fumes are not meant to be inhaled.
On to the myths!
1. Wearing nail polish often makes your nails turn yellow.
Nails are porous, and will absorb the pigment in polishes. The darker the polish, the more pigment it contains. This means that applying a very dark coloured polish, with no base coat, will most likely cause your nails to become discoloured. Simple solution? Apply a clear base coat to your nails before polishing to prevent the absorption of pigment and future discolouration.
2. You shouldn't suffocate your nails by painting them all the time, nails need to breathe.
Actually, they don't need to breathe because they are not alive. The blood stream provides nails with all the required nutrients they need to grow and be healthy.
3. Dunking your nails into cold water will make them dry faster.
Nail polish will be completely dry when all solvents within the paint have evaporated. Putting the wet paint into water won't speed anything up. Try applying thinner coats and leaving more time between the coats, to allow for a faster dry time overall. On the other hand (ha ha), exposure to heat will cause the polish to thicken and dry slower, so don't be manicuring out in the sun. Using a fast-drying top coat (Sally Hansen has some great ones) will be your best bet to speed up dry time.
4. You should cut your cuticles off to keep your nails looking pristine.
Cuticles are present to keep germs out of the nail beds. When you clip cuticles, you could potentially be exposing your nails to infection. Instead, apply a cuticle removing gel then gently push the residue back off the nail with a manicure stick. This works best right after a shower since your skin will be much softer. If there are large bits of the cuticle visibly peeling off the nail, this is when you can gently clip it off.
5. Artificial nails and gel polish ruin one's natural nails.
The effects of nail enhancements truly depend on the technique used when both applying and removing. Neither acrylics nor gels should damage the nails if done correctly, so choose a very good salon with trained professionals. Any nail damage experienced from these manicures is typically the result of aggressive filing, picking, biting, or prying off the coating. If you notice some damage after removal, simply apply a nail strengthener and some cuticle oil to repair.
6. File nails in a back and forth motion.
This method of filing will weaken nails and can cause peeling. Make sure to only file your nails when they are completely dry and don't use a very rough, bumpy file. Try using a glass nail file instead. Start filing from the edge of the nail, moving towards the center of the nail in one smooth motion. Continue filing in the same direction to the opposite corner. Only use a file to dull sharp edges and clip the nails for more major changes.
Note: Clipping can be done when the nails are soft after a bath or shower. Use good quality, sharp clippers or scissors to help prevent peeling and splitting.
7. Vitamins and nutrients can be absorbed into the nails when applied topically.
Like stated before, the hard nails themselves are dead and will not absorb vitamins. Nutrients can only reach your nails through the blood stream. Keep your nails strong by eating healthy and moisturizing. Hand cream ingredients such as vitamin E will protect your nails from damage, but won't necessarily make them more healthy.
8. Avoid nail products with chemicals in them and use natural nail polish.
As far as I am aware, there is no such thing as natural and “chemical-free” nail products. But do let me know if you happen to find a "natural" nail polish/base coat/top coat that actually works well.
9. White spots nails are a sign that you have a calcium deficiency.
Although I did believe this one for a long time, it is also false. White marks can appear after slight injury to the nails, but will not tell you anything about calcium levels. If you are interested in reading a bit more on this topic, The Globe and Mail posted an interesting article, linked here.
10. Nail polish will last longer in the fridge.
No, and more importantly, you probably won't want your food absorbing the fumes that can leak out from the bottles. Store nail polishes upright, at room temperature. Keep the bottles tightly sealed to avoid having them dry out and invest in a nail polish thinner to keep the polish from getting gloopy. Also, don't use nail polish remover to thin out a polish. It will ruin the polish over time and make it less long-wearing (judging from my personal experience). Nail polish doesn't expire or "go bad" since microbes definitely don't survive in that kind of environment.
For a final thought, do not, I repeat, DO NOT bite your nails. Not only will you be ingesting dirt and bacteria, but even a minor cut alongside the nail can allow bacteria and fungi to enter the skin and cause infection.
Keep those nails happy and healthy,