MyPsoriasisTeam members are often interested in learning more about nail care for people with psoriasis. Whether your psoriasis affects your skin, fingernails, toenails, or all three, it’s important to understand how to care for your nails — and how products like nail polish and nail polish remover may affect you.
Here, we will take a look at nail polish and nail polish removal options for people with psoriasis. We’ll also talk about some general nail care tips that work well for people with psoriasis. In general, it’s best to talk to your doctor or dermatologist about how nail treatments may affect your psoriasis.
Psoriasis can be a skin disease, a nail disease, or both. If you have been diagnosed with psoriasis, the biggest risk when it comes to doing your nails is that you may trigger a psoriasis flare. No matter what part of your body your psoriasis affects, any injury to your body can cause an inflammatory response called the Koebner phenomenon. This response causes new psoriasis lesions to appear.
People with nail psoriasis may find that their psoriasis worsens with certain nail treatments. Psoriasis of the nails can cause many nail changes, such as nail pitting, nail splitting, brittle nails, and the separation of the nail plate from the nail bed (onycholysis). Psoriatic nails may also become discolored, develop subungual hyperkeratosis (a chalky substance that builds up under the nail), or change in other ways. These symptoms may worsen in people who get their nails done regularly. In particular, the drying chemicals in nail products can aggravate the symptoms of nail psoriasis.
Both nail polish and nail polish remover contain chemicals that people diagnosed with psoriasis might be sensitive to. These include toluene and formaldehyde (found in many nail polishes) and acetone (found in many nail polish removers). These chemicals can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions (dermatitis), or psoriasis flares.
However, some types of nail polishes and nail polish removers are designed for people with sensitive skin. These products may be labeled “5-free,” “7-free,” or “10-free.” These terms mean that the products were made without some common chemical irritants. You may need to try several of these products before you find one that does not trigger your psoriasis.
You can also find nail polish remover without acetone. While these products will not dry your nails as much, they might not remove polish as effectively. If that’s the case for you, take extra care to avoid scrubbing your nails too hard and inadvertently damaging them.
In general, people diagnosed with skin psoriasis and nail psoriasis can still get basic manicures with nail polish and light buffing. Make sure to ask your manicurist to be gentle, and explain what can happen to your skin and your nails if the manicurist is too rough or uses abrasive chemicals.
Ask your nail technician to avoid doing anything that makes them pull your nail away from your finger and to err on the side of caution with anything that might damage your skin. You may, for example, ask that instead of trimming your cuticles, they gently push your cuticles back with a bamboo stick wrapped in a cotton swab. You could also ask before your appointment if you can bring your own tools, which could decrease the risk of infection.
You can also purchase nail polish and nail polish remover designed for sensitive skin and bring them along to your nail appointment. Your nail technician will likely understand and be happy to use them, but it may be a good idea to check in advance when scheduling your appointment.
If psoriasis affects the appearance of your nails, be sure to explain the cause to your nail technician. Most are wary of working on nails affected by fungal infections (like onychomycosis), which can create an unsanitary environment. Let the manicurist know prior to your appointment that you have a noncontagious medical condition that affects your nails and that you are not dealing with an infection.
There are differing opinions on gel nails and psoriasis. One study says that basic gel nails are a good option for hiding cosmetic nail changes, as long as the person isn’t sensitive to the chemicals involved in the application process and the technician is knowledgeable about the special needs of psoriatic nails.
However, other medical practitioners say that gel nails don’t help the situation. Gel nails may add to the strain your affected nails are under, causing damage or even worsening existing psoriasis.
If you want to get gel nails or artificial nails, talk to your health care provider or dermatologist about whether these techniques might be right for you. You may also want to try them on just one nail at first to gauge your reaction. Whether your psoriasis worsens or not may indicate whether it is safe for you to proceed with a full set of gel or acrylic nails.
Whether you choose to use nail polish, get professional manicures, or leave your nails natural, there are some things you can do to care for them after a psoriasis diagnosis. If you are struggling with your nails or aren’t sure how to care for them, talk to your dermatology team. They can give you suggestions that are specific to your body and your needs.
Keeping your nails trimmed will make them less likely to snag on something, which helps prevent injuries that may lead to the Koebner phenomenon. Trimming your nails also prevents buildup under the nails, which can occur in cases of psoriasis with nail involvement.
If the skin around your nails is inflamed, be sure to disinfect your nail tools before you use them. Inflamed areas have microscopic breaks and are more likely to become infected, which will only make your skin problems worse. To disinfect tools, swipe them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Sanitize any tools before using them near wounds or raw areas.
Make sure to keep your hands, cuticles, and nails moisturized. Use a thick, oil-based ointment or a cream designed for people with psoriasis every time you wash your hands, or at least several times a day. Moisturizing helps prevent injury to your hands and keeps your nail beds hydrated, which can improve their appearance.
Picking at your nails — or even cleaning under them too roughly — can injure the skin and cause an infection or psoriasis flare. If you must remove a hangnail, soak your hands in warm water, then remove it as gently as possible. If you have debris under your fingernail, warm water might help remove that too.
If you’re doing any work where you might irritate your skin, wear gloves. Some people with psoriasis find that latex gloves alone don’t protect their hands enough. You may need to wear a cotton glove with a nitrile glove over the top, and possibly a latex one over that. While it might sound like overkill, this protection can play a big role in helping manage your psoriasis.
Both of these nail tools can do more damage than good — especially if your nails are already damaged due to psoriasis. Trim your nails with scissors or clippers, and smooth them with products like glycolic acid.
Ask your dermatologist about prescription nail polishes that can help reduce the appearance of psoriasis on your nails. Also talk to your dermatologist about systemic treatments known as biologics that help stop the inflammation leading to psoriatic nail disease.
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