Even if you're treating psoriasis, polishing your nails can make them look better and brighten your mood.
For some people living with psoriasis, showing off painted fingers and toes may seem out of the question. From nails that are pitted, thickened, and discolored to ones that are separated from the nail bed, it can be embarrassing.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, about half of all people with psoriasis have nail problems. A trip to the nail salon may be the perfect feel-good strategy for you.
If you treat psoriasis, the appearance of your nails will improve. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, treatment may involve topicals, phototherapy, or biologic drugs. In a study published in March 2010 in the journal Archives of Drug Information, researchers found that the drug efalizumab was more effective in treating nail psoriasis than topical treatments and light therapy.
Even if the treatment is effective, you still may want to polish your nails to make them look better — and to help you feel better about yourself. But is it safe to get a pedicure or manicure when you have psoriasis?
Most definitely, says Marlene Reid, doctor of podiatric medicine with Family Podiatry Center in Naperville, Illinois, and past president of the American Association for Women Podiatrists. “It’s not going to help, but it’s not going to make it worse, either,” she says. “Getting polish to cover up is fine.”
Making the Appointment
If want to get a manicure or pedicure when you have psoriasis, go for it. There’s no reason not to, agrees Alicia Zalka, MD, dermatologist with Dermatology Associates of Western Connecticut in Danbury. Plus, it could make you feel better by masking some of the nail issues psoriasis can cause.
When making your appointment, you may want to tell them you have psoriasis and ask whether their nail technicians have worked with people with psoriasis before. If the nail technician isn’t familiar with psoriasis, you may have to make it clear that psoriasis is not contagious.
Psoriasis affecting nails can mimic nail fungus, says Dr. Zalka. “Both psoriasis and nail fungus are chronic and both can have the same thickened-nail appearance,” Dr. Reid adds. But while fungus is contagious, psoriasis affecting nails is not. You don’t have to worry about getting psoriasis at the nail salon. “Though you can get fungus,” says Reid.
At the Salon
The nail technician doesn’t have to do anything differently for you than she would for any of her other customers getting a manicure or pedicure. “She should take the same precautions she does with every customer and sterilize her equipment before and after every manicure and pedicure,” Reid says.
State laws require professional salons to scrub their tools and use a hospital-grade sanitizer between clients. If you’re concerned about whether the salon has sanitary practices, ask to see proof.
One small change may be needed: When you have psoriasis at the nail salon, you might not want to soak your hands or feet in water or soap for too long. “Water pulls the moisture out of the skin,” Reid explains. When the skin is robbed of moisture, it can make psoriasis worse.
Try to avoid artificial nails because you could have an adverse reaction to the glue.
If you have psoriasis on your feet and toes, Reid suggests asking your podiatrist for a pedicure before going to the nail salon. “That way your pedicure will last longer and your nails will look better,” she says. The podiatrist can reduce the bulk of the nail manually or with a device, as well as remove corns and calluses.
Keeping Nails Healthy
Here are some additional tips for your nail health and psoriasis at the salon:
Be kind to your nails. If you treat your nails roughly, it can worsen the psoriasis. Ask the nail technician working on your nails to be sure to buff the nails lightly. When the nail technician is clipping or shaping your nails with a file, make sure she takes care not to injure them. Injuries to your nails also can cause psoriasis to flare.
Keep your nails short. Tell the nail technician you want your fingernails that are affected by psoriasis to be kept clipped short so that they don’t snag and lift further. Also ask that your toenails be clipped straight across. If your toenails don’t extend beyond the tips of your toes, they’re not as likely to snag on your shoes or socks.
Skip the polish. If you suspect your nails are infected, don’t put polish on them; let the infection heal first. Telltale signs of infection? Redness, discoloration, and swelling.
Give it time. Medication may help improve your nail health and psoriasis. Just keep in mind that it can take six months to a year for an affected nail to grow out.
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