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Why Nails Need a Winter Vacation

By Amalah

Photo by Betsssssy
Hi Amy,
I am a 26 year old grad student living in DC. Because my mother is always right about everything, her prediction that I would reach an age where being a lady would be in my best interest – well, that time has come. Not just dressing up, but doing all the other things that make you feel good about yourself and putting forth the extra effort required because my body’s astounding metabolism at age 19 is gone forever. For me, this has included, you know, buying lady clothing (no more sweats everywhere), wearing lady shoes (sigh, no more Black converse for everything), ditching the CVS products and going philo$ophy, going to the gym, eating better, etc, etc. And, she was right, it’s been nice to, duh, do nice things for myself.
I still won’t get my hair done – too emotional, advice for another day. Here’s the easy question: recommendations for a nice place to get a pedicure in DC? I never ever got pedicures before, and I started getting one at this pricey, but amazing place in Capitol Hill. Everything is clean, well-lit, and basically met all the requirements in a post of yours I read earlier.
My only concern is that since getting pedicures, I feel like my nails are not as healthy as when I didn’t. Does this make any sense? Before, I would just trim and clean myself, and NEVER painted my toes ever (total tomboy, totally against). They weren’t professionally done to be sure, but maintained. Now, I feel like my toe nails are yellower in color, and I get dead/cracked skin underneath the nails. This past summer I would get a pedicure every two weeks, but stopped getting them about three months ago because of the aforementioned concerns.
I know you have touched on this subject before – but any advice on maintenance between pedicures? What of pedicures that make your feet worse? Should I be going elsewhere? Am I not meant to be indulging this fine lady custom?
Thanks very much,
a local fan

So the problem here is not WHERE you’re getting your pedicures, or even the pedicures themselves. It’s the polish. Polish is just not GOOD for your nails. It usually contains formaldehyde and polish remover often contains acetone and both can be pretty damaging to your nails after constant non-stop exposure. We put polish on for cosmetic reasons, not to make our nails healthy. It’s like any make-up, really. Sure, my skin would probably have fewer problems if I stopped using foundation altogether, but…I prefer the way I look when I wear foundation. So I wear foundation, and then try to take a few extra steps to keep my skin healthy and clean in spite of it.
This includes…washing the foundation OFF. Which is what we should all be doing with our toenail polish every now and then.
For optimal foot and nail health, this means regular pedicures and polish ONLY in the spring and summer, when the weather actually allows open-toed shoes and regular exposure to like, AIR and SUNSHINE. That’s about May through October, here in DC. Remove the polish yourself in-between appointments and treat any brittleness or yellowing with some tea tree oil and lemon juice.
In the winter, keep your nails polish-free as often as possible. Seriously, your toes need a winter vacation. Pedicures on an as-needed basis only, like before parties or vacations.
(In the interest of full disclosure on my own hypocrisy: I got a pedicure right before my baby’s birth in mid-October…and then left the polish on forEVER, until it was practically disintegrating off my toes, and got totally scolded over the cracked state of my nails by a Russian manicurist in JANUARY when I got my toes done for my husband’s holiday party. “You take polish off TOMORROW. You no wear polish until JUNE. You will get the FUNGUS!”)
If your pedicure appointments are the only thing prompting you to remember to take care of your nails, or are your only little escape from a house full of needy children, that’s fine — skip the polish. (And clear polish is still polish.) If you simply MUST polish, at least remove it as soon as it chips instead of touching it up. I love painted toenails as much as anybody, but the recovery time is essential, because I, for one, do not find toenail fungus very attractive, you know? Damaged, yellowed, brittle nails are more prone to fungus — no matter how nice of a salon you’re going to. Yeah. Yum.
(Are y’all reaching for the polish remover yet?) (EDITOR: TOTALLY)
(If your feet get dry and cracked in the winter, by the way, avoid going barefoot. Yes, even inside the house — once you turn on the heat, the air gets dry and so do your heels. Wear socks or slippers.)
The extra build-up of dead skin under your nails is a bit of a puzzler — I mean, we all get that, but there’s nothing about pedicures that should make it WORSE. Maybe whatever sanitizing stuff they use in the water is too harsh for you? Do you wear sneakers or other closed-toed shoes without socks or hose a lot? Either way, get yourself a little nail grooming kit and dig that stuff out whenever you see it.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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