The Biggest Mistakes You're Making When Cutting Your Nails

The nails on our fingers and toes require just as much care and attention as any other area of our body. According to Live Science, nail care will occupy hundreds of hours over the course of one's lifetime. While this may sound excessive, keeping our nails trimmed and healthy is important, as longer nails are more prone to the accumulation of potentially harmful bacteria than shorter nails are (via American Academy of Dermatology Association).

Contrary to other areas of our body that are made up of living cells, our nails are actually made up of a dead substance known as keratin. By the time a fetus reaches 20 weeks in the gestational period, our nails begin to form. From that point onward, our nails will continue to grow throughout our lives as new living cells beneath the nail are continuously produced, form new portions of the nail, and emerge as what we see on our fingers and toes.

With so many hours being dedicated to nail care throughout our lives, how can we avoid the most common of nail cutting mistakes?

When you should cut your nails versus when you should file your nails

The first most common error people make when it comes to nail trimming is the shape in which they cut their nails. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), rather than cutting your nails in a curved shape like that of a crescent moon, you should instead be making a clean horizontal cut straight across. To take care of the sides, instead of clipping, use an emery board to file them down. When filing, be sure to swipe in the same direction each time, as a rough back-and-forth motion can wear on the nail, making them more brittle.

Additionally, most people don't realize the importance of proper nail preparation prior to clipping. Rather than getting right to it, experts suggest first submerging nails in warm water in order to make them more malleable. The AAD suggests the optimal time for nail cutting is post-shower or bath time. Lastly, refrain from picking at your cuticles. Cutting our cuticles paves the way for bacteria to make their way into the nail, leaving us more vulnerable to infection.

So how often should we be cutting our nails? Our nails grow at a nearly imperceptible rate — roughly 2.5 millimeters per month (via Healthline). While this may sound slow, you'll still want to cut your nails weekly or every other week depending on the desired length. Be sure to use a nail clipper to remove any broken portions of the nail, and always properly disinfect any nail care tools after the fact.