The Finger Nails require special attention if we desire to preserve them in their highest condition of beauty and usefulness. To keep them clean, the nailbrush and soap and water should be used once or oftener daily, as circumstances demand. Once a day at least, on wiping the hands after washing them, and whilst they are still soft from the action of the water, the free edge of the scarfskin, which, if not attended to, is apt to grow upward over the nails, should be gently loosened and pressed back in a neatly rounded form, by which the occurrence of cracks and sores about their roots (hangnails, nail springs, etc.) will be prevented, and a graceful, oval form, ending in a crescentlike space of white, will be ensured.
The skin, as a rule, should never be cut, pared, picked or torn off, as is commonly done, and the less it is meddled with, otherwise than in the way just mentioned, the better. The ends or points of the nails should be pared once every week or ten days, according to the rapidity of their growth, which somewhat varies with the season of the year and the habit of the individual. This is best done with a sharp penknife or nail-knife. Scissors are less convenient for the purpose, and have the disadvantage of straining and distorting the nails during the process.
The length and shape of the nails, both for beauty and use, should exactly correspond with the tips of the fingers. Nails extending beyond the ends of the fingers are vulgar, clawlike, and inconvenient; whilst if shorter, particularly much shorter than the fingers, they are unsightly and of little use, and cause the tips of the fingers to become thick and clumsy. Biting the nails should be avoided as a dirty and disagreeable habit, and one utterly destructive to their beauty, strength, and usefulness.
To remove stains and discolorations of the nails, a little lemon juice or vinegar and water is the best application. Should this fail, a few grains of salt of sorrel, oxalic acid, or chloride of lime, each diluted with warm water, may be applied, care being taken to thoroughly rinse the hands in clean water, without soap, afterwards. Occasionally a little pumice stone, in impalpable powder, or powdered cuttlefish bone, putty powder (polisher’s peroxide of tin), may be used along with water and a piece of wash-leather, flannel, or the nailbrush, for the same purpose. The frequent use of any of these substances is, however, injurious to the healthy growth, strength, and permanent beauty of the nails. The common practice of scraping the surface of the nails cannot be too strongly censured, as it causes them to become weak and distorted. Blows on the nails, and, indeed, violence to them in any form, also distorts and marks them.