Nail & Skin Disorders

The Nail Doctor Talks About Summer Nail Issues

It’s summer, which can mean a healthy time for nails.

It’s summer, which can mean a healthy time for nails. Open-toed shoes allow air to circulate, so there is less sweating and moisture, keeping feet feeling fresh. But there’s a downside, too. During the summer months, nails have special needs, and every nail technician should be prepared to help her clients with the proper procedures and advice. Here are some of the situations you may see during warm weather:

Accelerated Growth. Since nails grow faster during the summer than the rest of the year, certain problems arise with the more rapid growth. For example, if your clients’ sculptured nails grow faster, chances are they will return for fill-ins more frequently. This subjects them to more mechanical manipulations of the nails, increasing the possibility of injury. Consequently, trauma-induced bacterial and fungal infections may be on the rise because injury to the nail allows organisms to gain entry and the warmer temperatures make for a better breeding environment. In addition, faster growing natural nails must be trimmed and filed down more frequently. This, too, can increase exposure to injury, so remember to work on your clients’ natural nails with care.

Fungal Infections. In summer, people tend to go swimming more often, to exercise more at health clubs, and to frequent spas more often. This exposure can increase the incidence of fungal infections, which may be picked up from areas around the swimming pools or shower stalls where fungal organisms thrive.

Overexposure. Nails can also be affected by overexposure to the sun. We all know that skin overexposed to the sun can cause serious damage as well as premature aging, and make individuals more susceptible to skin cancer. But keep in mind that the nail bed, the portion of the nail which is underneath the nail plate is also subject to sun damage. While it is true that the nail plate filters out about 1/3 of the sun’s rays, prolonged periods of exposure during the summer can cause considerable damage to the nail bed. Even melanoma can occur in the nail unit. As a result of this, it is as important to protect their nails from the sun as it is to protect their skin. Many nail cosmetic products contain sunscreens to protect nails form UV rays, which can help.

Toenail Infections. With regard to the toenails and close-toed shoes, summertime brings on hot, sweaty feet, which provides an ideal environment for fungi. As a result, you may see more toenail onychomycosis (fungal infection of the nail) or tinea (ringworm of the nail). It is important for the nail technician to be aware that there is an increased incidence of fungal infections during the summer, and you may be the first one to notice the problem. If this is the case, you should refer the client to a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment. Inform your client that the treating physician must take samples from the nail in order to confirm the diagnosis of the fungal infection. Without this test, abnormal toenails may be misdiagnosed as a fungus infection when in fact there may just be changes in the nails due to excessive sweating, trauma, or psoriasis.

Dehydration/Overhydration. Clients who suffer in the winter from brittle nail syndrome, a condition in which the nails are very fragile, break easily, peel, crack, and have increased splitting and ridging, may notice an improvement during the summer when the humidity is higher. Nevertheless, an exaggerated overhydration of the nails may occur, causing the nails to become unusually soft and bendable. This can be just as unpleasant as a problem for your clients as brittle nails. In some people, overhydration of the nails may lead to onycholysis (separation of the nail plate from the nail bed or lifting of the nail). This is due to excessive moisture that the nail is exposed to during high humidity. When onycholysis occurs, it may increase the possibility of a fungal infection as well, particularly the yeast fungus, which thrives on moisture and finds the lifted nail, with its moist environment, a pleasant place to survive.

The key advice for your clients during the summer is to protect their nails from the sun, keep them ad dry as possible, and avoid excess trauma. This will keep nails in tiptop shape during this warm time of the year when increased susceptibility to fungal infection is a reality.

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