The Art And Science Of Cutting Your Toenails Properly Did you ever asked yourself why, when you were little, your mother insisted on cutting your toenails straight across? Maybe you didn’t think to query it at the time but remembered years later that’s how she always did it and wondered why. Two words: ingrown toenails. Cutting your toenails is one of those chores that just needs to happen now and again. Toenails will grow and look ungroomed and unsightly when they get too long. As they curve they can grow into the skin, which eventually results in pain and possible infection that will require professional treatment . Did you know… some fascinating nail facts Fingernails and toenails are made from keratin, a protein, and nail growth is affected by many factors, chiefly age and health. Did you know that children’s nails grow faster until puberty when the rate of growth slows by half? This might explain why your mum seemed to always want to cut them! In adults, illness and certain drugs can slow the growth of your nails (or even cause them to fall off) while pregnant women tend to report faster growing nails because certain hormones boost their metabolism and increase circulation. For reasons not entirely ‘nailed down’ by scientists, fingernails grow 3-4 times faster than toenails – who knew? What’s more, the nails on your dominant hand grow faster than those on the other hand. When it comes to toes, the average rate of growth is about 1-2mm per month – meaning it will take you at least a year to grow out a toenail from cuticle to tip. How often should toenails be trimmed? Assuming an average growth rate, you should be giving your toenails some regular attention every 6-8 weeks to keep to the recommended 1-2mm length beyond the edge of the nail plate. The nail length is important, not just for aesthetic reasons. If you cut your nails too short you can actually increase the risk of ingrown toenails, while excessively long toenails are more likely to get caught on something and tear, risking injury. Long toenails, particularly in ill fitting footwear, can suffer repeated trauma and thicken as a result, with long-term consequences. This also often happens to sporty people including professional footballers, runners and dancers. If you’re a physically active person, you may wish to keep them shorter, meaning more frequent trims. The right tool for the job Have you ever tried cutting your toenails with scissors? Even if you use designated manicure (pedicure?) scissors, these tend to be small and delicate instruments that are usually not man enough for the job. In order to cut your toenails like a pro, invest in a good pair of nail clippers. In fact, you should possess two pairs of nail clippers – one for your fingers and one for your toes, the latter needing to be bigger and more robust since the nails on your toes are broader and thicker than those on your fingers. Keeping fingernail and toenail implements separate also reduces the chance of transferring any bacterial or fungal infection you may have. It goes without saying that your nail clippers should be thoroughly cleaned after every use before you put them away. It should also be obvious that no other sharp cutting tool should be used for your toenails, including razor blades, knives or regular kitchen scissors. These implement are wholly inappropriate for the job and there’s a real risk of slipping and injuring the delicate skin surrounding the nail. You have been warned. The cutting process Before you start cutting your toenails, make sure your feet are clean and dry. Dry toenails are less likely to bend or tear when you cut them, so there’s less risk of injury and a greater likelihood of a nice clean cut. The exception to the rule is very thick toenails that might be easier to manage after soaking in hot water. Using your nail clippers, trim the nail straight across , like your mama told you and the NHS also recommends. Why? Rounding the nail corners or cutting the sides at an angle can encourage the corners to grow downwards towards your skin and become ingrown. It is often easiest to achieve straight nails in two cuts: the first cut slightly off to one side to create the straight edge, the second cut through the rest of the nail following the line of the straight cut. Finally, get an emery board and gently file away any jagged edges that could snag or tear the nails as it grows out, so you get a nice, smooth result. About the Author: Dakota Murphey enjoys sharing her experiences of living a healthy lifestyle through her blog posts. Working as a freelance writer for a multitude of different industries, when she's not writing or cooking up a storm in her kitchen she enjoys hiking and countryside walks with her family.