If you frequent the nail salon, you may have heard from friends or family that you need to take regular pauses from pedicures to “let your toenails breathe.” In theory, this seems plausible—after all, the rest of your body wouldn’t do so great if it were constantly covered in paint. However, many professional pedicurists beg to differ. Clearly, you care enough about your feet to keep them looking attractive, so who are you to believe? Is the idea that your toenails need some air an old wives’ tale, or scientific fact? Fortunately, when it comes to podiatric problems like these, Dr. Jeffery LaMour and our team are here to help. In the following blog, we answer the common question, “Do my toenails need to breathe?” so you can stride into the nail salon with confidence and maintain your foot health.
Do Toenails Actually Breathe in the First Place?
The short answer is: no! In her Huffington Post piece on the topic, Dana Oliver explains, “The reality is that nails do not actually ‘breathe,’ as they receive their nutrients and oxygen from the blood stream and not the air.” Basically, whether you put on polish or not, your toenails will get the same amount of oxygen. So, suggesting that keeping your toenails au natural lets them “breathe” is a bit of a misnomer. However, having polish-less periods are a good idea for several other reasons.
The Benefits of Pedicure Breaks
Most likely, the reason the myth of “breathing” toenails became popular is because it actually can be detrimental to keep them constantly covered with polish. Letting your toenails go au natural from time to time can help you avoid the following conditions:
- Keratin granulation. Have you ever taken off your nail polish only to discover white, dry patches underneath? Foot Files defines keratin granulation as “rough, white patches on the nail that form when old polish is removed and ends up taking superficial layers of the nail with it.” In this case, you’re actually scraping off the top part of your nail, removing important nutrients and tissue. This is much more likely to happen if you get frequent pedicures or often change out your colors. Taking a break from polish can help your toenails heal.
- Acetone overuse. Anyone who’s ever put on nail polish knows that it takes more than just soap and water to take it off. Foot Files warns, “Frequently removing nail polish with acetone remover can dry out the nail, causing it to crack, peel, separate, and become brittle.” This isn’t the cutest look for your nails, with or without a layer of polish over them, plus it “leaves your nails more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.” Don’t think that you’re safe with gel nails – these actually “[require] extra time and scrubbing with the acetone.” If you do end up damaging your toenails with acetone and contracting an infection, Dr. LaMour and his team can help you restore your nails with our advanced laser toenail fungus treatment. However, it’s easier just to avoid acetone in the first place by taking pedicure vacations.
- Discoloration. Vibrant toenail colors can be playful, fun, and stylish, but they also leave behind residues. Yesterday’s bubbly pink can become today’s yellowed nail. Going polish-free for a week or two can help your toenails return to a healthy hue.
Although they don’t exactly “suffocate” your nails, polishes, gels, and other nail products often contain chemicals that can be harmful to the appearance, texture, and health of your toenails. The old adage “everything in moderation” applies to pedicures, too.
Other Foot Factors
Of course, polish isn’t the only element of toenail health. You should also let your feet “breathe” by wearing appropriate footwear that isn’t too constricting. Tight shoes can put undue pressure on your feet, increasing your risk for infection or even cracking your toenails. Wearing supportive, roomy footwear that gives your feet space to move and “breathe” is especially important if you have longer nails.
For top-notch toenails, Dr. LaMour and our team suggest:
- Taking 1-2 week breaks every couple of months from toenail polishes.
- Avoiding excessively tight shoes, especially those that could pinch your toes.
- Working with a pedicurist who properly prepares your toenails, including addressing your cuticles, applying a clear, protective base coat, and using moisturizers throughout the pedicure process.
- Seeing your podiatrist for annual checkups and advice! We can help you diagnose issues before they become difficult to treat, and give you excellent suggestions to further enhance your podiatric well-being.
Taking care of your feet can help you enjoy the perfect pedicure!
Do You Have Other Toenail Questions?
Dr. LaMour and our team would be delighted to assist you. Contact us today to find out more and schedule an appointment at our Austin practice.