Is There An Ideal Length For The Best Nail Health?

If you love the look and feel of your natural nails, you likely take pride in keeping them clean and healthy. Whether you prefer them short, medium, or long in length, your nails require a certain amount of maintenance to ensure they're in the best condition possible. Additionally, proper nail hygiene is essential to preventing the development and spread of infections, but should you always keep your nails at a specific length?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), short nails are best if you want to be adamant about stopping the spread of germs. The longer your nails are, the more likely you are to carry bacteria underneath them. Even if you regularly wash your hands, the chance of infection is greater by having long nails compared to short ones — regardless of whether they're genuine or artificial.

If you like to keep a little length when it comes to your nails, there are a few tips you can keep in mind to ensure that they're healthy and don't spread bacteria. Making sure they stay clean and dry is essential — many people fail to consider the consequences of frequently exposing their nails to water. Your nails will change in size as they absorb and shed water, which is natural, but can leave them prone to splitting and breaking. Wearing gloves while washing dishes, for example, can reduce exposure.

How to keep your nails healthy

Other ways to keep your nails healthy include wearing a strengthener and keeping them trimmed and shaped, even if you maintain some length. Nail strengtheners primarily come in two different varieties – hardeners and hydrators. Hardeners can help restore the structure of your nails from the outside or inside, depending on the product you choose. If you've struggled with brittleness in the past, a hardener may be perfect for your nails. However, keep in mind that the lack of flexibility it creates within your nails makes them a bit more prone to breakage.

A hydrator can be used to strengthen your nails while maintaining flexibility. If you gain peace of mind knowing your nails can bend, this is the best choice for you. Hydrators usually come as a cream or oil and require multiple applications. Brush-on strengtheners — especially those that list formaldehyde as an ingredient — typically fall into the hardener category.

When it comes to trimming and shaping your nails, it's best to use a clean nail file and cut almost straight across as you do it, per the American Academy of Dermatology. An emery board can be used to round the corners of each nail — keeping them rounded, rather than pointed, can prevent them from catching on items and breaking. If possible, don't trim or push back your cuticles. This part of your nail protects the root, and keeping it intact can prevent infection in this area.

Why you should consider your nail shape

If you consider yourself to be up to speed on nail trends, you know that there is a wide array of nail shapes to choose from, whether you file your natural ones or wear acrylics. However, your choice of shape can come into play if you want to keep your nails healthy as well. The shape you maintain can sometimes render you more prone to breakage.

If you have small hands and short fingers, you may want to keep your nail shape oval. The filed sides can give them a polished look, while the shape itself can create the illusion of more length. If your nails are wider, but you have short fingers, you might benefit from maintaining round edges. Rounded nails can have a softer appearance, and they work with this nail type to also create the appearance of length.

Despite their tendency to get caught on furniture and beyond, nail shapes with hard edges (such as square and "squoval") still have their place in the world — particularly for those who are rocking shorter fingers with wide nail beds. With an emery board, you can create hard edges while maintaining a short length to prevent any accidents and breakage.

If you notice any discoloration or streaks in your nails, don't hesitate to contact your doctor. They can rule out any underlying medical conditions.