Clean nails: How to clean under nails when washing your hands

Here's everything you need to know about keeping nails clean and germ-free.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Aly Walansky

Frequent hand-washing is the first line of defense to protect yourself against germs and bacteria, as doctors and medical professionals have advised to avoid coronavirus infection. But how do our nails come into play when it comes to keeping things clean?

Washing your hands will never wash away all the bacteria and germs that live on your skin, but one of the most reliable areas for harboring hundreds of thousands of bacteria — and most likely some viruses as well — is the under surface of your nails, also called the subungual region,” New York City-based celebrity dermatologist Dr. Doris Day told TODAY Style.

The best way to minimize bacteria growth is to keep nails on the shorter side and to use a nail scrub or brush, Day continued. When it comes to length, how long is too long? "That is harder to tell," she said. "The longer then nail, the more undersurface there is to harbor germs." So the best bet is to stay neat and trim, royal family style.

It’s also important to not take trimming too far. Nails that are too short also pose a risk. “One issue I've seen is people sometimes cut their nails too short, and that is also an issue because it can cause breaks in the skin and that can make you more prone to infection,” said Day, who added that you'll know when you've gone too far if it cuts into your nail bed (that softer part right under the nail). "If it hurts or bleeds, you're definitely going too short."

Experts have also advised being mindful about potentially harmful habits that could spread germs, like touching our faces. That list certainly includes biting nails. “It's also incredibly important to avoid biting your nails since that's a direct source of germs to your body,” Day said. To try to avoid the nervous tick, have a good nail clipper nearby, keep your nails short and wash and dry the clipper between use.

As for the best way to clean nails and keep them clean, Day emphasizes that there's no need to rub your hands raw. "Overaggressive use of a nail brush can create nicks and microinjuries that could increase the risk of infection, so it's important to be gentle," said Day. "(Using a nail brush) once a day is enough for most people, or after handling materials that might easily accumulate under the nails — i.e. soil if you're doing gardening without gloves."

As people are encouraged to practice social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus, some wonder if they should cancel their appointments at the nail salon. While previous advice said to proceed with caution, it's now best to cancel or postpone all beauty appointments.

"With COVID-19 spreading rapidly across the country I would advise postponing any hair/nail appointments. Every person needs to do what they can to prevent the spread of infection," Dr. David M. Aronoff, Vanderbilt University Medical Center's director of infectious diseases, told TODAY Style.