When glossy nails become a deathtrap

By Vision Reporter

Added 7th March 2014 12:22 PM

Nail care is extremely important because the hands are always visible. But is it possible to get a manicure or pedicure without getting a little of the nail products on the skin?

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Nail care is extremely important because the hands are always visible. But is it possible to get a manicure or pedicure without getting a little of the nail products on the skin?

Experts say certain ingredients in manicure products such as nail polish can cause skin complications

For several years, Nabasa was getting a regular manicure and pedicure, without worrying about the potential hazards of the little indulgences.

But one day, she woke up with a painful swollen toe. She treated the swelling with different ointments, but this did not go help. Not too long after, all her toes were covered in a rash.

That is when she sought medical attention. She was diagnosed with a fungal infection, which the doctor said could have resulted from poor hygiene or sharing manicure equipment. Carol Natukunda explores the common nail biting ordeals :
Is there any modern sassy woman who has not had a manicure?

Chances are, most have at least paid one of those mobile manicure “cutex” boys to cut, paint their nails or fi x artificial nails.

After all, it is cheap. And with more manicure and pedicure centres mushrooming around the city, getting one’s nails done is as easy as reciting the alphabet; so much that more women are now into the culture of painting and managing their own nails.

“There is no day I have stepped out of my house with unpolished nails. I have short nails, so covering them with a red or purple shade makes me feel wonderful and confident enough to wear open shoes,” says Prima, a 25-year-old banker.

Nail-related ailments

Elizabeth Ayesigwa, a cosmologist, says fungal infections mainly result from poor hygiene. For instance if the manicure set is not disinfected after the equipment has been used on someone else, the next client could contract infections, bacteria and viruses.

Medical experts warn about unprofessional manicurists. “The industry is not regulated.
Anyone can open up a nail-related business.

In addition, some manicurists do not have the required expertise or knowledge about nail safety and hygiene,” says Kennedy Kabuubi, a physician at Friends and Family Clinic in Kampala.

Kabuubi says it is important to keep in mind that there are risks that come with unprofessional manicures. He cites allergic reactions to chemicals found in some nail products.

Recently, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control released findings of a study showing that several nail polishes that were being marketed as “toxic-free” actually contained one or more chemicals that have been linked to cancer and birth defects.

The chemicals are formaldehyde and acetone. In addition, Kabuubi says constantly applying nail polish also darkens/stains the nails.

“You can’t always trust the ingredients in product labels,” says Kabuubi, adding that if one obtains an injury during a manicure or pedicure, the chemicals, such as those found in nail polish, may be harmful.

He adds that delaying treatment can result in infections and eventually nail breakage and loss. Kabuubi says symptoms to look out for include; itching and discolouration of the skin around the toes.
Precautionary tips

Ayesigwa stresses that professional manicurists should be trained to sterilise manicure tools after working on a client.
“This helps prevent fungal infections.

In addition, basins and towels should be soaked in a detergent and hot water to kill organisms that cause diseases.” She says this can also help prevent ring worms and warts that come with lack of proper care.

Ayesigwa also cautions about technicians who scrub too vigorously underneath the nails or push back cuticles too far — both can cause injury and allow growth of bacterial and fungal infections.

trueA A manicurist attaches artificial nail enhancements on his client’s nails

Experts give the following tips:

Have your own manicure or pedicure kit and take it with you whenever you visit your manicurist.
Make it a habit to clean and disinfect your nail-grooming instruments before using them.

It is better to bring your own nail polish, base coat and top coat, to ensure the manicurists do not use expired chemicals.
Take extra care to know the components of the chemicals and how dangerous they might be.

Check out how clean the salon is. If your salon is not clean, it can breed bacterial and fungal infections
If you are reluctant to bring your own manicure kit, insist that all the instruments are cleaned and disinfected before they are used on you.

Pedicure tubs, basins and step-stools should be scrubbed thoroughly and disinfected after every client.
Use only fresh, clean towels.

Do it yourself. If you really feel you cannot do without a manicure.

You can learn how to it at home to save yourself the drama of mixing your feet up with people whose not know their  background.

The dangers of artificial nails

People who wear acrylics (artificial nail enhancements) also need to take precaution. When the acrylics are being fixed onto the nails, manicurists tend to fi le the surface of the nails down so that the new nails go on better.

However, the danger is that sometimes the nails are filed so aggressively that the nail bed bleeds.

In addition, when the nails are removed for good, the nails left under the acrylic coating may be paper-thin, painful and sensitive.

According to a story published in New York Times recently, vigorous scraping and f ling can lead to permanent damage, where the nail lifts from the nail bed.

Dr. Nick Lowe, the president of the British Cosmetic Dermatology Group, explained that the nail is an extension of the skin. “It is grown from skin cells and it is porous. If the nail or nail bed becomes damaged, it can take a long time to repair.”

“But it’s not just acrylics that are causing problems. Gel manicures — which involve a coloured gel being applied to the nails, hardened under a UV light and then removed with acetone weeks later — are also hugely popular, but could be posing a serious risk to women’s health.”

He adds that while gel manicures are booming — because they last up to two weeks without chipping, they are beloved of mothers and busy professionals alike — dermatologists are worried that the use of UV light could be raising the risk of skin cancer.

A research done in 2009, published in JAMA Dermatology, reveals that two middle-aged women developed tumours on their hands, following exposure to UV nail lights.

Neither had a family history of skin cancer and both worked indoors and had moderate exposure to sunlight, the study adds.

Following this research, experts suggested that women limit having this treatment to once or twice a year.

trueHow do ingrown toe nails come about?

For Clare Mwesigye, her major problem is ingrown nails. “Recently I realised that instead of my nails growing outwards, they were growing inwards, so much that I would feel a lot of pain when I would wear closed shoes.

I decided to consult a manicurist, but the problem only got worse. A doctor recommended surgery to prevent the problem from occurring again.”

Dr. Emmanuel Tibayungwa, a dermatologist in Kampala, says ingrown nails (medically referred to as onychocryptosis) come about when the sides of the toenail grow into the surrounding skin.

He adds that the abnormal extension of the toenail pushes into the surrounding skin, causing discomfort. Normally, toenail grow vertically or outwards towards the tip of the toes.

Causes of ingrown nails

Ingrown toenails can result from incorrectly cut toenails, tight-fitting shoes, nail infections and picking or tearing at the corners of the nails.

“Cutting your toenails too short, or cutting the edges causes the surrounding  skin to fold over the nail and the nail to grow into the skin,” Tibayungwa agrees.

Dr. Ben Kenneth Obwot, a dermatologist in Kampala, adds that many times, ingrown nails are genetic.
Symptoms of ingrown toenails

These include;
Sores that may or may not be painful,
Nail folds
A clear or yellowish discharge.

Treatment may involve controlling the infection as well as relieving pain.

In some instances, the patient has to undergo surgery to destroy the root of the nail, Obwot says.

“Destroying the root helps prevent the nail from growing into the skin. A nail is like hair. If you destroy the root it will never grow again.

If you cut just the top, it grows again,” he explains.

Self-care measures
Practice hygiene by washing the feet regularly, using soap and water.

Trim the nails straight across to help prevent them from continuing to dig into the surrounding skin.

Ensure you do not tamper with the edges as this might create a problem.
Wear comfortable shoes — that provide space around the toes and are not tight.

When glossy nails become a deathtrap

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