It’s always sandals season in Singapore, so of course we’ve gotta keep our toes (and fingers while we’re at it!) looking good. But our humid climate and the risks of frequent mani-pedis actually make us susceptible to a not-so-nice condition: nail fungus (eeeew!). But not to worry, mamas, our medical expert Dr. Cheryl Kam is here with everything you need to know about avoiding nail fungus, and treating it if you have to!
The festive season approaches…and I have some news that may make you think twice about that Gel manicure you’ve got booked in.
Gel manicures and pedicures, more commonly known by the leading brand “Gelish”, are affordable and popular in Singapore. However once you start, it is difficult to stop as they look incredibly pretty and don’t chip, while your existing nails underneath tend to appear worse and worse.
The reason for this is that during the Gel nail application procedure, the top layer of protective nail is filed down with a rough nail file prior to application of the Gel polish. On removal of the Gel polish, some amount of filing is also done. Over-zealous filing breaks down the waterproof surface of the nail and thins it, allowing germs to enter and set up shop on your nails.
This is one of the risk factors for developing fungal nail infections. Other risks factors include:
- Living in a hot and humid environment
- Wearing covered shoes that promote moisture retention
- Having diabetes or a weak immune system
- Nail injuries
The most common fungus, Trichophyton rubrum, which also causes Athlete’s foot, is the cause of almost all fungal nail infections (other causes include yeasts and moulds). These culprits are invisible to the naked eye and are found in our natural environment.
Some people are more prone to fungal infections than others, often without a clear reason why.
Often times the nail is infected, but goes unnoticed since it is neither painful, nor deforming in its early stages.
Left untreated, however, the fungus may start to creep towards the skin, or cause unsightly irregularities, thickening, or discoloured or crumbly nails. The nail may even start to separate from the nail bed, or deform enough to cause pain.
It is always important to check with your doctor if you suspect you have a fungal nail infection, as this can look similar to other diseases such as eczema and psoriasis, which can affect the nails as well. In some cases your doctor may decide to do a nail scraping to confirm a diagnosis.
Treatment is available in the form of a medicated nail tincture, and – only if appropriate – anti-fungal tablets may be prescribed, often requiring a blood test before and during therapy.
It is worth noting that cure rates are 60-80%, and that after treatment, the nail may not necessarily return to its original shape or colour. Tablets may have to be continued for months to over a year.
Given the various therapies available and their safety considerations, it is always best to discuss with your doctor the most appropriate treatment for your situation.
- Regularly air your feet out if they have been in covered shoes all day
- Keep sweaty feet dry with anti perspirant roll-on or powders that include Aluminium Chloride
- Rotate your shoes instead of wearing the same ones daily
- Try using alcohol wipes on the feet and around the nails to clean them thoroughly
- Consider going natural without manicures or pedicures
If you just can’t live without your mani-pedis, you may want to be vigilant about the following things:
- Choose a nail salon that disinfects their tools between each customer
- Reputable nail technicians will care for your nail’s long term health and tend not to file the nail down too thin before application of acrylic
- Don’t allow the nail technicians to push back your cuticles, as they help to form a protective seal between your nails and the environment
- Don’t peel off your gel nails as it takes a layer of nail off with it; instead get a soak-off
- Go natural every now and then to allow the nails to rest and regenerate
Fungal nail infections can also occur in kids, and are more unsightly than they are life-threatening. With this awareness and these preventative measures however, you can minimise you and your family’s risk of getting them.