Foot Health

Seven habits for healthy toenails

Summer is approaching and that signals the beginning of bare foot season.

Healthy toenails are very attractive and are often a sign of good health and regular nail care. Many persons are proud to walk around town and show off their healthy nails during the summer.

Healthy nails are attractive but they can tell a lot about your health and resist or delay getting toenail fungus.

What healthy nails look like

Healthy nails are clear, smooth, and without pits or grooves. They’re uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration. They are thin but strong, not brittle and do not tear easily. Sometimes healthy nails can develop harmless vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the tip of the nail.

Nails can look and feel different depending on the time of year (they may be drier during the colder months) and how old you are. But if you notice a sudden change in a nail, or if the skin around your nail becomes red or swollen, get it checked by a doctor.

It’s also normal for your nails to change during the course of your life. For example, nails may become softer, harder or more brittle during pregnancy, break more easily as you get older or change color or even fall off after injury (such as catching your nail in a door). The following are a few tips to promote healthy toenails:

Try Biotin
: As long as you eat a healthy, varied diet, you don’t need any dietary supplements to guarantee strong healthy nails. However, people with weak nails or nails that break easily may benefit from biotin, a B vitamin. Biotin has been shown to be helpful for strengthening and growing nails.

Polish is OK
: Wearing nail polish isn’t going to harm your healthy nails, although you probably should give your nails a break from the polish periodically. It is also better to wear a lighter color polish rather than a darker color to prevent staining the nail. Choose acetone-free nail polish remover, it is less harsh or drying on the nail.

Moisturize cuticles
: Think of your cuticles like the protective caulking around a bathtub. If you cut them back too far or push them around too aggressively, you damage them and they cannot protect the nail. The nail bed is open to infection. Remember to moisturize the cuticles as part of regular nail care to maintain healthy nails.

Keep nails trimmed
: Trimming nails regularly helps you to maintain healthy nails and helps to avoid snagging or breaking. How frequently you trim will depend on how fast your nails grow. Use a fine file to smooth out the edges of your nails. As part of your manicures, you can also lightly buff the surface of your nails, especially if you tend to get ridges or lines on the nail.

Minimize manicures
: Keep manicures simple to preserve healthy nails. Sometimes you can go in and just get your nail polish removed or shape your nails rather than heavy filing of the nails. Skip the acrylic nails, which can lead to more infections, and be aware that there is a small risk of skin cancer from the UV (ultraviolet) light that is used. Wear sunscreen on your feet if you are going to be exposing your feet.

Wear the correct size shoe and prevent trauma to the feet and toenails
: Wearing shoes that are too small can cause pressure on the nail and lead to damage or allow fungus to get under the nail. The type of shoes also affects the nail health. High heels or pointy mouth shoes can cause more damage to the nail than round or square mouth shoes like sneakers.

Take Infections seriously and take action
: If you see signs of infection, check with your podiatrist immediately for the needed nail care and treatment. You’ll probably recognize the signs of a bacterial infection (redness, swelling, and pain) but you may miss the early signs of a nail fungal infection, such as puffy, red, irritated skin around the nail bed. Fungal infections go on to make nails yellow or brown, thick and crumbly.

• For more information, email us at or visit To see a podiatrist, telephone 325-2996 for an appointment, visit Bahamas Foot Centre on Rosetta Street, or call 394-5824 for an appointment; or visit Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre on Hilltop Medical Centre off 4th Terrace Collins Avenue. In Grand Bahama, call Lucayan Medical Centre at 373-7400 for an appointment. 

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