Nail exfoliation: Buff away damaged keratin to expose pink, shiny nail beds

October 1, 2009
Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a consulting professor of dermatology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C. She is investigator, Dermatology Consulting Services, High Point, N.C., and a Dermatology Times Editorial Advisor and co-medical editor.

Nail exfoliation is an idea adopted from skincare to nail care. The concept in facial exfoliation is to remove the desquamating corneocytes creating softer, smoother, more attractive skin.

Q: How do nail exfoliants work?

Nail exfoliation is a method of improving the appearance of the nail by buffing away the poorly formed or damaged nail keratin. The exfoliation can be accomplished with a buffing cream or with a series of nail files.

Nail files are more popular than buffing creams for nail exfoliation because they are easier to use. The nail exfoliating files contain six different grades of sand paper: very coarse to very fine. The coarse grit is used to knock off any loose keratin, the medium grit removes nail ridges and the fine grit is used to polish the nail to a high shine. The old term for this process was nail filing, but the new term is nail exfoliation.

Removing the damaged nail keratin also improves the transparency of the nail, allowing the pink nail bed to be visualized.

Q: What is the difference between a serum and a cream?

A: Serums have become increasingly popular in the cosmeceutical realm. They are typically liquids that are removed from a glass jar with a dropper and placed on the skin. Usually, the glass jar is tinted to prevent light from oxidizing the jar contents, as many serums contain light-sensitive ingredients, such as vitamin C, retinol and retinaldehyde.

Serums are intended to bring a cosmetic active to the skin in a form suitable for all skin types. The thin liquid possesses minimal moisturizing abilities and can be used on oily, normal, dry and combination skin. Persons with oily skin could apply the serum and a sunscreen for daily use. Persons with dry skin could apply the serum followed by a moisturizer of their choice and then a sunscreen.

The serum is viewed as the therapeutic treatment product and is designed to be combined with other skin care products to meet the needs of each consumer. Typically, serums are applied to the skin immediately after cleansing followed by another moisturizer.

The difference between serums and creams is that the serum possesses few moisturizing ingredients, whereas the cream is designed to moisturize the skin and possibly deliver cosmeceutical actives.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a Dermatology Times editorial adviser and investigator, Dermatology Consulting Services, High Point, N.C. Questions may be submitted via e-mail to zdraelos@northstate.net
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