The terms eczema and dermatitis are often used interchangeably to describe the same condition. Dermatitis is characterized by a rash, dryness of skin, itching, and redness of skin. The symptoms of dermatitis occur due to the over production of damaging inflammatory skin cells and continue to worsen as a result of certain factors in the environment.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dermatitis and the Manicure

In a recent issue of Women's Health in Primary Care, two New York dermatologists, Dr. Herbert P. Goodheart of Mount Sinai Hospital and Dr. Hendrik Uyttendaele of Columbia University Medical Center, reviewed the various procedures involved in current nail cosmetic practices and their possible hazards.

They began with what is often the first step in a manicure: removing the cuticle, sometimes after applying a softener with strong alkalis that break down the keratin in this protective skin. Cuticle removal should be discouraged because it can lead to inflammation and infections of the surrounding tissue and nail root and cause permanent nail deformities, the doctors advised.

They also warned against the use of a wooden pick under the nails when getting a "French manicure," which can contribute to fungal infections and loss of the nail.

Cosmetic nail products are replete with toxic and allergenic chemicals, including toluene, phthalates, camphor and formaldehyde. Many of these components can cause allergic reactions, and not just involving the nails.

For example, eyelid dermatitis can result when someone touches or rubs her eyes with polished nails, transferring the toluene-sulfonamide-formaldehyde resin in the polish to highly sensitive skin.

Nail hardeners with fiber, used to treat brittle nails, are another source of allergic reactions, as is the acrylic glue used to attach many nail wraps and tips and the plastic artificial nails used to elongate natural nails. In addition, minor pressure exerted on the tips of artificial nails can damage the underlying natural nails and cause partial or complete nail loss. The experts point out that "natural nails are often the healthiest choice and need the least maintenance." But they also recognize that getting enthusiasts to abandon nail cosmetics is a lost cause.

They suggest these steps:
To reduce the risk of infection, women who get professional manicures should buy their own "manicure pack" containing a set of manicure instruments that they bring to the nail salon.

Cuticles should not be removed -- at most, gently trimmed -- and acrylics should be used with great care.

Women should periodically refrain from using nail polish and other nail cosmetics to promote overall nail health and to permit occasional inspection of the natural nail for abnormalities.
Because trimming or filing natural nails into an "egg-shape" to make the fingers look longer increases the risk of separation from the nail bed, a grooming method similar to that used for toenails -- flat tips with long corners -- is more sensible and less likely to result in broken nails.