Keep Your Hands and Nails Healthy

By Kevin C. Smith MD FACP FRCPC

Great Looking Hands - Keep Your Hands and Nails Healthy

In business, bad looking hands and nails can be a distraction. You make an effort to look your best, attending to your hair and complexion, and protecting your face from sun damage. But your hands can betray years of sun damage and aging, and sometimes their appearance can make you look older and more decrepit than you are - and can even be a real distraction in some cases.

Nail Care Tips:

  • Nail care is simple: just clip your nails neatly then LEAVE THEM ALONE. If you try to clean the space under your nails, you can easily enlarge the space between the nail plate and the nail bed: making matters worse not better.
  • If you clip, manipulate or pick at the cuticles you will disturb the seal which the cuticle makes between the nail plate and the nail fold, allowing infection and irritation to disturb the nail manufacturing apparatus under the nail fold and causing the nail to grow out with ridges and other unsightly defects. Your fingers and nails will look better if you leave the nail beds and cuticles alone! Read more about nail infection on
  • Nail polish is OK, nail hardeners should be avoided because they make the nail more brittle and increase the chance of nail breakage and splitting. Some people also develop allergic contact dermatitis to the formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals used in many nail-hardening products.
  • If you suffer from psoriasis and this is affecting your nails, do not try to force creams and lotions under the nails or under the nail folds. This will not help your problem, and can increase the amount of separation of the nail plate from the nail bed. Carefully controlled injections of anti-inflammatory medicine into the nail fold can be very effective, and are (surprisingly) not very uncomfortable. This is a very useful treatment, which can be repeated as needed, but must be done by a dermatologist skilled in this work. See pictures of nail psoriasis on

Rejuvenating Your Hands:

The hands themselves can often be rejuvenated quite easily. Brown spots from sun damage (sometimes wrongly referred to as 'liver spots') can be faded or eliminated by treatment with laser or intense pulsed light ('IPL'). If there is severe sun damage with pre-cancerous spots (commonly seen on old golfers and boaters), Levulan® can be applied and then after an hour it can be activated by treatment with IPL, to track selectively eliminate pre-cancerous and sun damaged cells from the skin. Creams like Retisol-A 0.01% (which contain both tretinoin and sunscreen) can be very helpful if applied every morning long term to prevent new damage.

In some cases the skin on the back of the hands has become very thin because of sun damage and aging. Restylane® or Sculptra® injections (which take just a few minutes and require no anesthesia) can take years off the appearance of the hands - and also restore the fullness of the skin, reducing the chance of bruising and cuts from minor trauma.

Have a quick look at your hands now. If you like they way they look, resolve to continue to protect your hands and nails from sun damage and from self-inflicted injury to the nails and cuticles. If you want to improve the appearance of your hands, you now know what can be done to restore your hands to the appearance your desire.

About the author:
Dr. Kevin Smith is a dermatologist in Niagara Falls, Ontario with a particular interest in protecting the skin and in correcting skin problems resulting from aging, rosacea and sun damage. He is an expert in the use of Botox®, fillers, lasers and intense pulsed light to maintain and enhance the appearance of the skin, and have lectured on those subjects across North America, and in Europe, Asia and Mexico. Read more at

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