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Clean and well-groomed hands are essential to a polished look, but trimming nails too frequently or into the wrong shape could actually lead to serious health conditions, according to a new study.

“It is remarkable what some people are willing to do to make their nails look good, and it is in this context that I decided to look at what we really know about nails,” explains lead researcher Dr. Cyril Rauch at the University of Nottingham.

Turns out, that wasn’t much. Rauch’s evaluation of scientific journals turned up little on the physics or math when applied to nails. For their study, Rauch’s team came up with an equation to identify the physical laws of nail growth to find the causes of some of the most common nail-related problems, such as ingrown toenails, spoon-shaped nails and pincer nails.

“We demonstrate that the shapes of the free edge of a nail – the way we cut nails to give them a specific fashionable shape – can have repercussions on the future shapes of the nail over time,” as well as bring out underlying medical conditions, he says.


The scientists discovered that when the balance between growth stress (nails growing too quickly or slowly) and adhesive stress (the number of structures supporting the nail) is broken, it can affect the entire nail, causing it to change shape over time. This situation happens much more often for larger and flatter nails like the big toe, which is most susceptible to problems.

Age or change in metabolic activity, such as puberty or pregnancy, are the usual causes of nail stress, but the equations showed that it can be amplified by poor trimming.

“We suggest that nail beauty fanatics who trim their nails on a daily basis opt for straight or parabolic edges,” Rauch says.

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