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Hand And Nail Care Tips

Care for your hands and nails with tips from NIVEA


Like any other regularly visible part of the body, fingernails are susceptible to damage and cosmetic change. Since fingernails are almost always on show, changes in their appearance are often fairly noticeable. However, you may be wondering where to start with nail care, and, in particular, cuticle care. Read on to learn about our guidance on nail care, including cuticle care, the importance of hand and nail cream, and how you can construct a nail care routine for healthy looking nails.

What is each part of the nail?

A fingernail comprises of six main parts: the root, nail bed, nail plate, cuticle, paronychium, and hyponychium.
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The root

The root is the semi-circular white patch closest to the knuckle and is responsible for nail growth.

The nail bed

The nail bed is the skin beneath the nail, which contains nerves and blood vessels and extends from the root to the outer edge.

The nail plate

The nail plate is the nail itself, smooth on the surface and grooved underneath to help it adhere to the nail bed.

The cuticle

The cuticle is the edge of skin at the root of the nail, which glues the nail to the finger. Cuticle care is especially important since it seals the gap between the nail plate and finger, which can become infected when exposed.


Paronychium is the skin on either side of the nail, which can be prone to ingrown nails and skin infections.

The hyponychium

And, the hyponychium is the skin below the tip of the fingernail, which, again, helps to fuse the nail to the bed and prevent any water or harmful bacteria from entering.

A healthy fingernail is smooth, consistent in colour, and free from discoloration or spots, although light ridges and grooves are also completely normal. Knowing this, along with each component of the fingernail, you can now begin to identify where any possible issues may be stemming from and construct an effective nail care routine. But what exactly are the signs of damaged or unhealthy nails?

Common symptoms of unhealthy nails

If your fingernails don’t fit the description above, there may be an issue affecting one or more parts of the nail. Common symptoms include:
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Discolouration: this can occur if there’s a bacterial infection, which will often turn the nail a dark-green/black colour. If you notice a yellow discoloration, this may be the result of nail varnish remover and smoking. On the other hand, something more significant or unusual, such as a black streak, should be raised with a dermatologist immediately.

Swollen cuticles or paronychium: this can happen when the cuticle or the skin on either side of the nail are chewed or removed. One of the best forms of cuticle care is to leave them alone altogether.

Nail separation: where the top layer of the nail separates from the nail bed, causing a white discoloration. This can be the result of trauma or overuse of certain products.

Brittle nails: this common symptom often stems from poor diet and is usually a sign of vitamin deficiency. However, it can also occur from repeated wetting and drying of the hands, for example from regular washing.

Dipping: in cases where the nail becomes extremely thin and brittle, it may begin to dip and create a spoon-like shape. This can be a sign of iron deficiency.

White spots: can be caused by an injury to the nail but also malnourishment.

Peeling: another symptom of trauma, particularly if the nail is used as a tool to pick or scratch something. This can also be caused by repeated and prolonged exposure to soapy water.

How to take care of your nails

Aside from regular washing and trimming, an effective nail care routine is more of an ongoing process rather than a daily routine. Below are some of the most crucial steps to keep your nails looking strong and healthy on a regular basis.
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Incorporating an effective hand and nail cream into your nail care routine can alleviate symptoms such as, swollen cuticles, and also enrich the keratin within the nail. NIVEA offers a range of hand creams that can help to supercharge your nail care routine. In particular, our NIVEA 3-in-1 Q10 Anti-Age Hand Cream provides an intensive layer of moisture with an added firming boost to improve the appearance of dull skin.
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Fingernails are prone to collecting all sorts of nasty germs and bacteria. Good hygiene is the foundation of any effective nail care routine. This can be as simple as keeping your nails trimmed to a short length and occasionally using a brush to scrub with soap beneath the tip.
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Avoid water where possible

It’s all too tempting to dive into the washing-up without throwing on a pair of rubber gloves, but this step is crucial to protect every part of your nail and avoid further treatment later on. If you find that the appearance of your nails has declined and they are often exposed to water or wet conditions, it might be time to wear gloves wherever possible.
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Adjust your diet where necessary

The nail itself is formed of layers of keratin, a protein found in many foods such as eggs, sweet potatoes, and kale. Increasing your intake of keratin-rich foods is an easy way to bolster your nail care routine. This will ensure that your nails are firm and uniform in appearance. You can also find a wide selection of supplements which contain keratin. Other vitamins to keep an eye out for include, for example, biotin and collagen - two popular vitamins in nail care. In addition, Vitamin E is particularly good at fighting against free radicals, which can affect nails. Be sure to read our advice on antioxidants to learn more about their benefits in skincare.
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Use the right tools at the right time

Although slightly trickier to use than traditional clippers, manicure scissors can elevate your nail care routine. They can produce a neater cut along the tip, allowing for a smoother, more rounded appearance. This will strengthen the nail tip and prevent breakages. Wait until after you’ve bathed as the nail will be slightly softer and easier to cut. This should allow for neater edges and avoid any damage. In between trims, avoid biting the nail or pulling any hangnails, as this could damage the nail and/or irritate the surrounding skin.

Cuticle care tips and advice

The cuticle might seem like an obstacle when applying a fresh coat of nail varnish. A common part of the nail painting process involves pushing the cuticle back to reveal the nail underneath and partially extend the nail’s length. However, pushing or cutting the cuticle can cause inflammation and potentially open the door to infection, which may affect nail growth. 
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In any case, it’s best to leave the cuticle well alone. Other ways you can care for your cuticles include:

  • Moisturisation to keep the skin soft and prevent any dryness, and in turn, cracking. A moisturising hand and nail cream will do the trick here. In cases of extreme dryness, however, you may wish to opt for an ointment.

  • Avoiding unnecessarily abrasive manicures that may involve pushing or cutting the cuticle. Although doing so may improve the appearance of the nail in the short term, it may affect growth and nail health in the long term.

  • If you’re a fan of having painted nails, try to avoid frequent use of varnish remover that contains acetone as this will dry the cuticle and nail. The same applies for washing up liquid, too. Rubber gloves really are a great tool for cuticle care.

  • Whilst a good hand and nail cream will provide adequate moisturisation, you might want to try a cuticle oil, particularly if you’ve trimmed or pushed your cuticles in the past.

Nail care against brittle nails

If, after following the guidance above, you notice that your nails are looking and feeling brittle, it might be time to add a few extra steps to your nail care routine. 

Brittle nails can either be soft or dry. Soft and brittle nails contain too much moisture. They’re often the consequence of overusing nail polish remover or an overexposure to harsh chemicals, such as detergents. By contrast, dry and brittle nails lack moisture, which can happen after frequently washing and drying the hands. Brittle nails may also be the result of a nutrient deficiency, for example, iron. A lack of iron reduces blood cell levels. If you suspect this is the case, it might be worth consulting a doctor about adding iron supplementation to your nail care routine.

If you notice your nails are dry and brittle, be sure to apply a moisturising hand and nail cream before going to bed. In particular, look for revitalising ingredients, for example, provitamin B5 to accumulate and lock-in extra moisture. It’s also worth applying a moisturiser if your hands have been washed and dried frequently, but also wear gloves as a preventative measure, if possible. If your nails are softer, then again, gloves are also particularly effective. Be sure to wear them in cold weather or if your hands are regularly exposed to detergents or other harsh chemicals. As a further measure, you may wish to apply a nail hardener to reinforce the nail’s structure. If you don’t notice any improvement after following this guidance, be sure to speak to your doctor about pharmaceutical remedies.

Hand and nail care with Nivea

NIVEA offers a wide range of hand care products to aid in your nail care routine. From 3in1 hand and nail creams containing Provitamin B5, to fast-absorbing hand and nail cream enriched with beeswax and honey, NIVEA is here to help with your nail care. If you’re unsure as to which hand cream is the one for you, we also have advice on choosing the right hand cream.