[How-to] Properly Trimming Nails and Toenails

Trimming one’s nails may not seem like a big deal. In fact, most people probably give it little thought. But there are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways to go about trimming, and knowing how to best cut your nails will ensure comfort and minimize the risk of irritation and infection.

The Proper Tools

When preparing to trim nails it’s important to have the necessary tools. For trimming fingernails, clippers or scissors can be used. Fingernail clippers are smaller than toenail clippers and have a curved cutting edge which is ideal for giving the nail a nice, round look.

When trimming toenails, it’s recommended that one use toenail clippers. Toenail clippers are larger than regular nail clippers and have a straight cutting edge.

Why use a separate clipper?

Toenails are thicker than fingernails, and a larger cutting edge will ensure more success when clipping.

Also useful may be an emery board or nail file to smooth the nail surface after trimming and ensure that no jagged edges remain. Not only are those jagged edges irritating and at times painful, they can catch on fabrics and other surfaces and result in tearing the nail.

It’s also a good idea to disinfect your tools before and after each use. Wetting a cotton ball with alcohol and wiping down the cutting edges will accomplish this task very nicely.

When to Trim

It may seem silly to think that there’s a ‘best’ time to trim nails, but it’s true! Trimming wet nails is much easier as the nails will not be as brittle and hard, making them easier to trim. Try to plan your trimming at a time when your nails have been softened by exposure to water. Keep in mind, however, that wet nails mean the nail is weaker and more susceptible to tearing.

Trimming Toenails

When cutting toenails it’s extremely important to use the correct method, as improperly cut toenails can lead to infection and ingrown toenails. When you’re preparing to trim, follow these steps:

  • Cut the nail straight across, not into the corners. It can be tempting to round the nail, but this is one of the worst things you can do when trimming, as it dramatically increases the chance of ingrown toenails.
  • Don’t cut the nail too short. This is another cause of ingrown toenails. Make sure the nail is just slightly shorter than the toe itself.
  • Don’t attempt to trim the nail with one big cut. Trimming bit by bit will make the task easier.

Trimming Fingernails

When trimming fingernails, follow these simple steps:

  • Aim for a slightly rounded shape. Follow the natural contour of the nail for a nice, finished look.
  • Leave a bit of white visible. Cutting the nail back into the quick can be painful! The ideal length is just flush with or slightly extending over the tip of the finger.
  • Never trim the cuticle! This goes for toenails as well. Trimming cuticles can increase the risk of infection. Instead, simply push the cuticle back.

Maintaining Good Nail Health

Keeping those nails healthy between trimmings is important as well. The health of finger and toenails is a good indicator of the body’s overall health. For example, dry, hard nails can be an indicator of a deficiency of fatty acids in the body. Your nails will look your best if you’re eating a good diet and getting enough vitamins. Regular exercise is important to nail health as well. Healthy nail growth is a sign of good circulation, a natural benefit of regular exercise.

Here are a few more tips to keep your nails strong and healthy:

  • When filing, make sure to gently file in one direction. Don’t saw back and forth, as this can damage the nail.
  • Don’t bite fingernails! This can create jagged edges, which increases the change of tears and rips in the nail.
  • Clean under the nails regularly. This removes bacteria that may gather under the nail and cause infection.
  • Moisturize nails regularly. Nails need moisture just like hands. Get into the habit of massaging hand cream into the nails and cuticles as well.

Having healthy, well-trimmed nails is not an impossibility. In fact, a bit of preventative care and maintenance will go a long way in ensuring that your hands and feet are up to the rigors and stress they’re likely to experience on a daily basis.

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