Obsessing Over Your Nails Is Only Making Them Worse

Halloween comes with plenty of spooky nail trends, but what's underneath the polish could be much scarier. And, according to a new study, scientists have found the best way to cut your nails to keep them from getting gross — using physics.
The study, published last week in Physical Biology, theorizes that our nails act like mini- ratchets, constantly clawing their way forward by attaching and reattaching from their nail beds. With this idea in mind, the researchers set out to plot how quickly each part of a nail is likely to grow and, therefore, the strength with which it can withstand a tear or cut relative to its curved shape. Here's what they found:
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First off, don't trim every day. The study suggests that many of these conditions are caused by nails growing too quickly or slowly for the natural adhesion to compensate. But, daily, poor-quality trimmings can intensify this imbalance, resulting in long-term weirdness (e.g., ingrown or pincer nails).
And, the researchers advise that we stick to mostly straight nail edges. Not that you have too many other choices, but that classic curve (the technical term is "parabolic") is actually associated here with more stressed nails. Which means they're more prone to developing an unfortunate condition. If you're a fan of the curve, just have it at the edges rather than following the shape of the finger.
And, finally, pay careful attention to the big toe. Because it's so much flatter than other nails, the big toe's stress level is more likely to be out of balance.
Nail conditions are often diagnosed by an unusual nail shape, so it's not necessarily surprising that the initial shape could be a part of developing them. But, although there is very little research out there about the physics of nail growth, this does support the common advice we get about avoiding ingrown nails: Trim straight across, and at a moderate length. So, this study is both an intriguing explanation and a nice reminder that sometimes, a little less is more.
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