With the COVID-19 epidemic dominating the news cycle, we’re all taking extra sanitation precautions — not only for our own health and safety, but for others we come into contact with, too. According to the Center for Disease Control, the novel coronavirus can be spread from person to person through droplets in the air, skin-to-skin contact, or through bacteria picked up by our fingers... or under our fingernails.
The undersides of our nails can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so it’s important to abide by healthy manicure practices — always, but especially right now. That means washing your nails, thoroughly sanitizing under and around them, and keeping them away from your mouth (i.e. no biting). Ahead, a few nail pros give their three simple recommendations for maintaining optimum nail health in the time of coronavirus.
Scrub Under Your Nails
If you’re looking at the palm of your hand and you can see the underside of your nails extending past the tips of your fingers, you have what manicurists call a "free edge." It’s not bad or dangerous, so long as you make sure you’re washing and sanitizing in and around the underside and crevices of the nail edge. "Virus and bacteria can thrive in a warm and moist environment, like under your fingernails," says celebrity nail stylist Elle. "If you have long nails, the best practice is to use a proper scrub brush on the underside using soap and water, and sing the A-B-Cs while you're cleaning them to make sure you're taking your time to get rid of any dirt or bacteria."
Make Sure Your Salon Is Sterile
If you're going into the salon for a manicure, you want to make sure that you're keeping an eagle-eye watch for proper sanitation measures. "As a client, there are certain manicure practices you should be noting," says Amy Ling Lin, NYC-based salon owner and founder of Sundays Studio. "Most importantly, make sure your salon uses an autoclave to disinfect the tools — it's a box-like device that uses steam to sterilize equipment, killing bacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores. Further, your nail specialist should always be wearing gloves, using single-use buffers and files, and disinfecting the surface of each manicure station between clients." Sarah Gibson Tuttle, L.A.-based nail pro and founder of Olive & June, adds, "When in doubt, don't be shy. Ask how the tools are cleaned to make sure you feel comfortable."
Distract Yourself From Biting
The heightened stress and anxiety that comes with this global outbreak is enough to send any former nail biter right back into the bad habit — but it may be putting you at greater risk for contracting the virus. If we're abiding by the CDC's steps to prevent exposure, we know to avoid touching our eyes, nose, and mouth with our hands. Not only does biting your nails mean you're ignoring that measure altogether, it also means you're essentially eating the bacteria that could be festering under between your nail bed and your nail. That's problematic for a whole host of health reasons, including (but definitely not limited to) COVID-19.
In addition to the germ concern, gnawing at your nail bed can cause minor nicks and bleeding, putting you at greater risk of infection if you're not extra careful about washing. "Disinfecting with antibacterial soap becomes even more important for anyone who bites their nails," Lin says. "An open wound from bleeding or swollen cuticles is like opening the floodgates for bacteria to enter into your body."
If you're looking for tips on how to stop yourself from biting, try a distraction, like a fidget spinner, a stress ball, or even just scrolling through your phone (after you've disinfected the screen). As many manicurists and recovered nail-biters will tell you, self-care and pampering can do wonders for soothing your mind and keeping those impulses at bay — meaning that painting your nails while you're watching The Bachelor might actually be a solid preventative measure.