What's Hiding Under Your Nails And How To Keep 'Em Clean


nail hygiene tips

There’s an itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny part of your body that you might be neglecting when it comes to keeping clean. And here’s the thing: this spot is like a disco party for grime, germs, and bacteria. We’re talking about the areas under your nails, and the longer your nails are, the more potential there is for gunk to take up residence.

For the 411 on how grody things can get and how important it is to clean up shop, we reached out to a couple pros. Don’t worry – they’ve also shared an easy cleaning regimen so you can rest easier.

How Gross Can Nails Get? Pretty Gross.

We use our hands and nails for practically everything. For picking things up off the ground and elsewhere, scratching, holding hands with others, and wiping you know what. This is not an exhaustive list.

“Throughout the day, we use our nails for many mechanical purposes and these actions can accelerate the accumulation of dirt, bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms underneath the [the free edge of our nails that grows outward],” explains Dr. Eric Rudnick, a board-certified dermatologist and dermapathologist based in Boca Raton, Florida.

And not to really gross you out or anything, but Dr. Rudnick tells us he looks at nails underneath a microscope regularly, and things get pretty gnarly under there. In fact, he says that anecdotally, up to 90% of these nail specimens have numerous colonies of bacteria and yeast. Blech! Although not really surprising when you think about it.

nail hygiene tips

Dirty Nails Might Increase Your Risk of Getting Sick

Remember that part where we reminded you that nails are used for basically everything? Well, the issue of grimy fingernails is a big deal for precisely that reason. We also use our hands to prepare and eat food, and to scratch or touch our skin – sometimes scabs or open woods.

Some of us even have the habit of biting our nails or (sometimes unconsciously) putting them in or near our mouth, ears, and nose. In other words, we tend to give this grime a free and welcomed entrance directly into our body.

The CDC also stresses how dirty this area can get, noting that fingernails can even contribute to the spread of some infections. What’s worse for those of us who love a lengthy talon, they point out that “longer fingernails can harbor more dirt and bacteria than short nails, thus potentially contributing to the spread of infection.”

The Best Hygiene Regimen for Keeping Nails Clean

No, we’re not saying you absolutely have to cut your nails down to the quick. But we are telling you that you might wanna rethink your current nail cleaning regimen.

“Proper hand hygiene is more important than ever,” says celebrity manicurist Mazz Hanna. “[Whether long or short], you should thoroughly clean under your nails every single time you wash your hands. At least once a day, use a brush with antibacterial soap to gently scrub under fingernails. You can use a new soft toothbrush or a soft brush you can get at any beauty supply store or Amazon.”

nail hygiene tips

Her go-to is good old Dial Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap, $7. It might not be glamorous, but it’ll tackle bacteria without destroying your hands. For a brush, try Tweezerman’s simple but effective Dual Nail Brush, $4.30. Dr. Rudnick adds that if you have extra stubborn gunk, you can use the blunt end of a metal tool to scrape it away. Flowery Pushit Pro Pusher/Cleaner, $5, is a good option. To clean the tool, just wipe it down with alcohol.

nail hygiene tips

Turn this into a treat yourself moment by wrapping up with a nice hand cream and/or cuticle oil. Burt’s Bees Shea Butter Lavender and Honey Hand Cream, $5, delivers big, and Hanna’s Cuticle Oil, $29, is loaded with vitamin E, organic jojoba and hempseed oils. It even has an amethyst roller ball.

While you’re at it, now’s a good time to try to curb that mindless nail-chewing habit and to be more aware of exactly where you’re putting your fingers. Hanna adds that it’s important to avoid picking at your cuticles. Oh, and get yourself some gloves for any dirty jobs. That includes cleaning and scrubbing surfaces in your home, washing the dishes, and working in the garden.

Now that you know just how grody your nails can get, and what to do about it, may you never feel grossed out by the sight or thought of your own hands again. Stay healthy out there, babes.