According to the Center for Disease Control, the novel coronavirus can be spread from person to person through droplets in the air, skin-to-skin contact, or through bacteria picked up by our fingers… or under our fingernails.
The underside of our fingernails can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so it’s important to follow healthy manicure practices – always, but especially now. That means washing your nails, thoroughly cleaning them under and around them, and keeping them away from your mouth (i.e. don’t bite). Previously, some nail technicians made three simple recommendations to maintain optimal nail health during coronavirus.
Scrub Under Your Nails
If you’re looking at the palm of your hand and you can see the underside of your nails extending past the tips of your fingers, you have what manicurists call a “free edge.” It’s not bad or dangerous, so long as you make sure you’re washing and sanitizing in and around the underside and crevices of the nail edge. “Virus and bacteria can thrive in a warm and moist environment, like under your fingernails,” says celebrity nail stylist Elle. “If you have long nails, the best practice is to use a proper scrub brush on the underside using hot soapy water, and sing the A-B-Cs while you’re cleaning them to make sure you’re taking your time to get rid of any dirt or bacteria.”
Distract Yourself From Biting
The heightened stress and anxiety that comes with this global outbreak is enough to send any former nail biter right back into the bad habit — but it may be putting you at greater risk for contracting the virus. If we’re abiding by the CDC’s steps to prevent exposure, we know to avoid touching our eyes, nose, and mouth with our hands. Not only does biting your nails mean you’re ignoring that measure altogether, it also means you’re essentially eating the bacteria that could be festering under between your nail bed and your nail. That’s problematic for a whole host of health reasons, including (but definitely not limited to) COVID-19.
In addition to the germ concern, gnawing at your nail bed can cause minor nicks and bleeding, putting you at greater risk of infection if you’re not extra careful about washing. “Disinfecting with antibacterial soap becomes even more important for anyone who bites their nails,” says Amy Ling Lin, founder of sundays, a wellness nail care brand with New York studios. “An open wound from bleeding or swollen cuticles is like opening the floodgates for bacteria to enter into your body.”
If you’re looking for tips on how to stop yourself from biting, try a distraction, like a fidget spinner, a stress ball, or even just scrolling through your phone (after you’ve disinfected the screen). Or, disinfect and distract with a home remedy. “Try dipping your nails in lemon or vinegar,” recommends Jin Soon Choi, the founder of Jinsoon, a NYC-based spa and nail brand. “It functions as both a mild antiseptic and a biting deterrent due to the strong taste and smell.”
As many manicurists and recovered nail-biters will tell you, self-care and pampering can do wonders for soothing your mind and keeping those impulses at bay — meaning that painting your nails while watching Stargirl on Disney+ might actually be a solid preventative measure.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.