How To Protect Your Nails From Summer Stressors

Thanks to experts' advice and periodic reminders, we now know better than to step out of the house without first applying a sufficient amount of sunscreen. But with the heat more intense during the summer season, we need to take extra precautions to cover all our bases, including our scalps.

However, there's one area that doesn't get mentioned much when it comes to sun protection: our nails. 

Composed of layers of keratin, our nails allow us to have a better grip when picking up or pulling at objects. They also protect our sensitive nail beds from viruses and bacteria. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean they're impervious to the damaging effects of sun exposure. Add in beach trips one might frequently enjoy during the summer, and your nails are at a higher risk of being weakened by water damage and friction from rubbing against the sand. 

Adding a few extra steps to your summertime routine will go a long way in keeping your nails strong and healthy during the season. Make time for them, and don't forget to do some after-sun care, too. 

Apply protective products

We might think that slathering sunscreen on our limbs, hands, and feet already provides complete coverage. Still, it's better to apply sunscreen purposely on our cuticles and the area surrounding our nail beds. 

This will further lower the risk of developing different types of skin cancer, one of which is the rare subungual squamous cell carcinoma, which occurs under the nails. Due to its location and the lack of awareness about it, dermatologist Dr. Hadley King explained to By L'Oreal that this cancer usually gets misdiagnosed as psoriasis or a mere inflammation. She also cited melanoma as another dangerous consequence of prolonged sun exposure. "Most of the time, it occurs in the thumbnail or big toenail, though it can develop in any nail." Because it presents itself as dark marks or lines beneath the nails, it's often mistaken for bruises. This makes frequent sunscreen reapplication also a must, especially after we've washed our hands or taken a dip in the water. 

We can also bolster our nail defense with a man-pedi procedure, complete with the application of a base coat, a top coat, and an additional layer of nail strengthener. It's actually good to add cuticle oil (and its handy alternatives) to our nail care kit, as well as opaque nail polish that blocks UV radiation. Aside from their aesthetic benefits, these products nourish the nail plates and offer a layer of protection against damaging agents: the sun, salt water, and sand.

Limit contact with water, sand, and harsh ingredients

We're not always mindful of how much we expose our nails to excessive moisture daily; we inadvertently soak them in water when doing household chores. Dermatologist and nail expert Dr. Dana Stern told The Zoe Report, "When water enters the nail cells (onychocytes), they expand. After water immersion, these cells contract, putting significant strain on the onychocytes and making them more prone to weakening, peeling, and breakage." Ingredients in cleaning solutions can also be harsh to our nails and cuticles, stripping them of their natural oils. That's why on top of applying (and reapplying) sunscreen on our hands and feet, we must also minimize their exposure to water.

One measure is to wear gloves around the house while doing chores. We can even sport them at the beach à la Kim Kardashian for maximum protection. Our toenails deserve the same care, too: A pair of 'Gram-worthy but comfortable beach footwear is a great investment to protect them from the elements. As nice as it feels to wiggle our toes in the sand, it is an exfoliant, and too much contact will cause dry cuticles and chipped nails. 

Cutting down your time in the water is also important. To avoid water-logged nails, lock in moisture by towel-drying the hands and feet, then applying a hydrating cream that contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or lanolin, as recommended by dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian to The Zoe Report. And, of course, never forget and never skimp on sunscreen.