Senior Home Care Blog - Western Cook & Eastern DuPage Counties

Aging Nails Need Extra Care

By Mary L. Doepke, RN

Like every other part of our bodies, nails on both our fingers and toes are affected by age.

Aging nails often become soft and brittle, while others become thickened with fungal infection. Discolored and ridged nails often are common among older adults.

Aging nails can benefit from a little extra attention. Following are some tips for caring for nails as they age.

Get proper nutrition

Vitamin B7, also known as biotin, is found in many foods, including cauliflower, nuts and whole grains. Eating more of these foods could have a positive effect on nails.

Biotin supplements are available, but check with a physician before using them

Calcium, found in dairy products and in green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, is essential for strong nails. Too little of this mineral leaves nails dry and brittle.

Vitamin D allows the body to absorb and use calcium. The best source of this vitamin comes from exposure to the sun, but it also is found in fatty fish and fortified milk. Supplements are a common solution, but check with a doctor first.

Healthy fats such as those found in olive oil, salmon and avocado can improve the look and overall health of nails.

Give them a little TLC

  • It’s better to push cuticles back rather than to cut them. Cutting cuticles can leave new nail growth prone to infection. Soften cuticles with warm water and push them back gently with a tool designed for the job.
  • Muscles aren’t the only things that can benefit from a nice massage. Massaging oil into cuticles and nails can help nails grow stronger and healthier. Try rubbing oil into the nails on both hands and both feet before bed each night.
  • Keep the moisture flowing throughout the day by using lotion on hands, feet and nails.
  • When filing nails, do so in one direction only. Back-and-forth motion increases the likelihood that nails will split.
  • Nail polish gives hands and feet a neat and finished look, but polish and remover can be drying. Give nails an occasional break from your regular manicure and pedicure.

*These tips offered by

The fungus among us

Fungal infections can cause nails on the hands and feet to become thick, yellow and brittle. Ignoring the problem will only allow it to worsen.

Doctors may treat fungal infections with oral medications, creams, nail polishes and light treatments. In extreme cases, a doctor may suggest surgical removal of the nail to allow new, healthier nail to grow.

Home remedies for nail fungus include applications of tea tree oil or Vicks Vapo Rub. Many over-the-counter treatments also are available.

The  Mayo Clinic suggests these steps to prevent and control nail fungus:

  • Wash hands and feet regularly and keep nails short and dry.
  • Wear socks that absorb sweat. Choose wool, nylon and polypropylene.
  • Change your socks often, especially if you have sweaty feet.
  • Let them breathe! It helps to occasionally take off your shoes or wear open-toe footwear.
  • Avoid wearing old shoes, which can harbor fungi and cause a reinfection.
  • Treat shoes with disinfectants or antifungal powders. Spray or sprinkle the antifungal on your feet as well.
  • Wear rubber gloves. This protects hands from overexposure to water. Between uses, turn gloves inside out to dry.
  • Don't trim or pick at the skin around your nails. This may give germs access to your skin and nails.
  • Don't go barefoot in public places. Wear sandals or shoes around pools, showers and locker rooms.
  • Choose a reputable nail salon. Make sure the place you go for a manicure or pedicure sterilizes its instruments. Better yet, bring your own and disinfect them after use.
  • Give up nail polish and artificial nails. They can trap unwanted moisture and worsen the infection.
  • Wash your hands after touching an infected nail. Nail fungus can spread from nail to nail.