Acrylic Nails

The Help Desk Answers Your Technical Questions

This month's panel tackles how to buy nippers, what's happening with a damaged nail, and how mood-changing polishes work. 

How do I pick a good pair of cuticle nippers and how often should they be sharpened?

LaCinda Headings: When picking cuticle nippers you have to make a few decisions based on your needs and personal preferences.

Type of use nippers on enhancements, get acrylic nippers for that purpose and use cuticle nippers solely on cuticles. Enhancement products dull edges quickly and can break a less sturdy cuticle nipper

Length of blade: Ever wondered what “jaw” on the nipper package means? It refers to the length of the cutting edge. Your choices are 1/8-jaw, ¼-jaw, ½-jaw, and full-jaw. The smallest is 1/8-jaw and the largest is full-jaw. The smallest is 1/8-jaw and the largest is full jaw. I prefer ¼ -jaw because there is less like hood of cutting the skin with the back of the blade and if fits into smaller areas, yet it’s not too small to get the job done.

Length of Handle: Go for comfort. Hold the nipper in your hand to see how it fits. If you have a small hand, you may prefer a smaller handle. If you use nipper for long periods at a time, longer handles can be more comfortable because the ends don’t press into the soft tissue of you palm.

Grades of Metal: Stainless steel and stainless steel cobalt are more expensive, but they will keep their sharpness longer and will not discolor or rust if you leave them in your disinfectant solution for longer periods of time. (Note: most manufacturers discourage storing implements in disinfectant solution.) Nickel is less expensive, but must be carefully dried and lubricated after disinfection to avoid rusting.

To prolong the life and beauty of your nippers, first clean them with a nylon brush, then disinfect by laying them in a disinfectant tray or placing them points up in a jar. Finally, rinse, dry, lubricate, and store them in an airtight container.

As to how often they need to be sharpened, of course it depends on the type of metal and how much you use them – but every six to 12months is a good rule of thumb. It’s a good idea to have a spare pair to use while yours are out for service. Most implement companies guarantee their nippers and will sharpen and recondition them at no cost besides shipping. Most provide special padded envelopes that can be obtained from your distributor. Michelle Fidler of Mehaz recommends sending your implements via insured mail, just in case.

What causes mood changing polishes to change color? Is it a particular chemical?

Doug Schoon: Microscopic liquid crystals are the secret ingredient in these polishes. Natural forces between the molecules in liquid crystals cause them settle into loosely stacked – but very long and neatly arranged – rows. This highly unusual arrangement creates a strange effect. Usually, crystalline substances are solid. That’s because their neatly stacked rows of molecules are held in place and can barely move. But in liquid crystals, a change in temperature makes the stacks shift and roll like a pile of logs.

When they do, it affects light as it passes through the crystal. As the temperature changes, the shifting of the crystals cause different colors to reflect from the surface of the nail polish, thus changing its appearance.

About a year and half ago, I closed a car door on the index finger of my right hand. The nail became discolored, then grew out with horizontal groves. The nail is no longer discolored, but is still somewhat grooved. Through I try to keep the finger clean, the cuticle area fill gets infected regularly, which is very painful.

My dermatologist told me I no longer had a cuticle on that fingernail. She gave me some antifungal drops, which I used for nearly a month, but saw no improvement. (I have a feeling the infections are bacterial, not fungal.) Is there anything I can do to help the cuticle grow back, so it will once again protect the base of my fingernails?

Dr. Rich: I am glad that you recognize the importance of repairing a sick cuticle. Injury to the nail from the car door occurred to the nail matrix, the germinative epithelium that is responsible for the formation of the nail late. When the matrix is damage there is often permanent nail damage that is characterized by ridging and splitting in the nail plate. Unfortunately the ridges will probably be permanent.

Sometimes when the nail matrix is injured there can be damage to the nail fold too, but most of the time will repair itself fairly well. If you have no cuticle in the area of the injury, it is very important that you treat that area very carefully by not manipulating the delicate nail fold and protecting it from excessive water exposure. (Wear gloves for dishes and house hold chores. Minimize hand washing and dry the fingers thoroughly after water exposure.) The cuticle serves the important function of sealing the nail from outside irritants and microbes. When the cuticle is absent, various damaging substance such as water, detergent, bacteria, and yeast can get under the nail fold and prevent the cuticle from re-attaching. Never clean under the cuticle with a file or toothpick, and under no circumstances should the cuticle be cut.

Coaxing the cuticle to re-grow may take time. Using the antifungal cream is a good idea to prevent the development of yeast. Bacteria can affect the nail fold, but that is usually a more acute infection. If bacteria is suspected a cuticle sample should be taken from material under the nail fold by a dermatologist.

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