Hands and Feet

Have Your Nails Become Brittle And Weak? All They Need Is A Little Attention

+ Pamela Friedman

So you’re going through chemotherapy or radiation. What can you do about your nails during treatment?

“The reason nails are affected is identical to the reason hair is affected,” reports the Breastcaresite.com. “Cancerous tumors are made up of rapidly dividing cells, which chemotherapy targets. But rapidly dividing cells are also crucial to the formation of hair and nails, and chemotherapy is unable to distinguish these ‘good’ cells from the cancerous ones that it seeks to destroy.”

Cancer treatments can leave nails discolored, grooved, and brittle. Sometimes, nails can separate from the nail bed, start falling off, or turn black. Extremely dry cuticles can cause hangnails that, if not properly addressed, can lead to infection.

If you’re a woman, your first instinct may be to get your nails fixed. A wrap. Acrylic nails. Anything to make them look better. Harley Haynes, M.D., a dermatologist with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, warns you to resist. The space created behind acrylic nails and wraps often harbor and trap bacteria, which can lead to an infection-the last thing your body needs.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do. First, keep your nails short and filed smooth. Next, wear gloves. Around the house, they’ll protect against harsh chemicals in cleaning products. (Changing to natural cleaners will lessen your contact with toxins that can cause skin reactions.) Household gloves also protect from excess water, which can be drying. Outside, they’ll help shield against the elements, particularly from wear and tear when you’re gardening or doing yard work.

Next, switch from regular soap to a sulfate-free moisturizing hand wash. (We love California Baby Calendula Moisturizing Hand Wash.) These gentle cleansers will help moisturize your dry and possibly chapped hands. Dry by patting with a towel. Don’t rub, tug or pull, as your skin is sensitive and can be quite fragile.

After washing, apply lotion and cuticle oil. (A favorite: toxin-free CV Skinlabs Restorative Skin Balm.) Reapply as often as needed. At night, slather your hands and feet with a rich emollient cream or balm (use can also use the Restorative Skin Balm for this, for CV Skinlabs Body Repair Lotion), apply your cuticle balm or oil, and then slip on cotton gloves or socks. Cotton gloves can be purchased from your drugstore for a few dollars, or go to Amazon to see a full selection.

Here’s something else you may want to try: keep your fingers in ice water or immersed in a frozen bag of vegetables during your treatment. Some studies have shown that keeping nails cool during sessions can help reduce damage, as it makes it harder for the drugs to reach them.

Remember: taking extra care of your nails is important not just for vanity, but to avoid infection, and to keep your fingers and toes protected and healthy. So pamper away! (This means you too, guys!)

Are there any products that have helped your fragile nails and hands? Please tell us about them!