I love getting my nails done and usually treat myself to a manicure or pedicure every month or two. There’s A LOT about nails I didn’t know, though, until I spoke to Emily Stock, Chiropodist and founder of Barefoot Beauty, a natural nail salon in Toronto’s East end (my new favourite spot!). I asked her to share this nail care enlightenment with us and debunk some common nail myths we probably all believe!
Myth #1: Cuticles need to be cut
Most people don’t actually know what the cuticle is, which can by the main problem with cuticle cutting. The cuticle is a very thin, nearly transparent layer that grows at the base of the nail from under the skin. This skin gets pulled forward on the nail plate as the nail grows out.
In a professional manicure or pedicure, it’s very important to remove this layer from the nail plate in order to ensure nail polish will actually stick to the nail. Light buffing can help to remove the cuticle, but for really tough cases we sometimes need to trim. Trimming the cuticle means ONLY trimming this tissue. If the tissue is attached to the skin at the base of the nail it should not be trimmed. This is living tissue and trimming it will cause ragged skin and will put you at risks of infections.
Unless you are absolutely positive that the tissue is cuticle, put the nippers away! Excessive trimming of the cuticle is for purely esthetic purposes and actually ends up making the area look worse in the long run.
Instead use a lightweight oil (like sweet almond or jojoba oil) to soften the skin and use a fine grit buffer to lightly buff away any dead or loose skin then finish off with a rich moisturizing cream to protect and nourish the skin.
Myth #2: You need to let your nails breathe
Nails, just like hair are not living tissue and therefore do not need to breathe. They get all the oxygen they need from the blood supply at the matrix of the nail. (The matrix is located at the base of the nail, under the skin).
The nails do not have lungs and have no way of processing oxygen from the atmosphere.
Nails are, in fact, extremely permeable. Some sources suggest that nails are even more permeable than skin, which means it’s even more important to watch what you’re putting on your nails. A great first step is to make sure you’re using at least 5-free polish and avoiding harsh chemicals like those found in acrylic nails.
Myth #3: A body lotion does the same job as a foot cream
The skin on the soles of your feet contains an extra layer to help make it tougher and protect us from puncture wounds when walking. Because of this extra layer and all of the demands and extra stresses on the skin due to walking around all day long, typical body creams often don’t cut it for the feet. If you stop and think about how much we put our feet through, it’s not unreasonable to assume they require unique treatment. Be sure to use a moisturizer that’s specifically formulated for the feet. These moisturizers often have special ingredients to help ensure they will penetrate down through the tough layers on the soles of the feet.
Myth #3: Soaking your hands & feet is necessary for a great manicure or pedicure
Soaking your nails before applying polish or gel is a sure way to have your nails chip or peel soon after. This goes back to the point about nails being extremely permeable. When soaked in water, the nail plate quickly absorbs water and swells. It takes a while for the swelling to go down and the nail plate to dehydrate. If you apply nail polish right away, it will lift or peel once the nail shrinks back down. That being said, if you have thick or difficult to trim toenails, soaking is a good way to soften the nail plate and make trimming easier and safer.
Myth #4: Nails can be strengthened by using topical treatments
When it comes to nails, the #1 mistake people make is forgetting to realize that the strength and health of our nails has 90% to do with what we put in our body (i.e., eating properly and being properly hydrated) and about 10% to do with what we put on our nails (i.e., cuticle oil or nail strengtheners). Be sure to eat lots of protein from a variety of sources, stay well hydrated throughout the day, and consider taking Biotin supplements if you still need some extra help for strong and healthy nails.
Myth #5: All nail salons have the same sterilization standards
Technically all sterilization standards should be the same, but some salons may be cutting corners. Thankfully Barefoot Beauty has rigorous standards. Here’s more from Emily on that:
At Barefoot Beauty, we choose to use a two step-system in order to ensure that our tools are sterilized and free of any infectious pathogens. After an initial rinse and scrub, we use an ultrasonic cleaner which uses a high frequency to shake the tools free of any debris. We then dry and package the tools in a sealed sterilization pouch and run them through an autoclave.
The autoclave is what dentists and hospitals use to clean their instruments. It sterilizes through high heat steam and high pressure to kill all pathogens.
After the tools have been processed, you can check the sterilization pouch and see that the colour changing indicator in the corner (which is sensitive to the steam) will have changed colour. This is a great way to see that the tools have been properly cleaned. Tools that can’t be put through the autoclave, like nail files or buffers, are either disposed of or given to the client to take home after the visit.