29/12/2013

Nail clippers or scissors? Let's cut to the quick

Nail clippers, found in every Christmas cracker collection since trading with China began, are lethal. Even in experienced hands, they can bring tears to an unsuspecting little boy's eyes.

Okay, I'll grant you that quality nail clippers in the hands of a manicurist are the simplest way to accomplish nails to die for. But the sort I'm talking about, cheap ones dangling from key fobs and available en masse at the five and dime store, can do more harm than good.

Growing pains - from scissors to nail clippers (and back again)

When you're an infant, clippers are useless. Your calcium is in such high demand by other developing parts of your body that your nails simply melt to the touch. Try to clip them and they tear; mothers: they do not cut at that age!

I'm sure many parents, having inadvertently been gouged by their babes-in-arms, would contend that 'soft nails' argument. My response:
"If you'd used baby scissors, you wouldn't have a had problem! Or that, is that a scar...?

Am I biased? Probably...and with good reason

Before I got the hang of nail clippers, mother cut our nails with them. Was she so busy that this surgery needed to be performed as infrequently as possible? Seemingly so, as she'd always scythe right back to the hyponychium. The "quick", to you and me.

When those stainless steel half-moons of death clamped onto that sensitive flesh, boy, did it make you squeal?! Silently, of course. No tears in front of little sister.

Softly, softly...like a man

I didn't have to wait too many years until the successive ingrowing toe nail syndrome. Not to over-dramatise this subsequent episode, but similar (self-inflicted) toenail cutting practises in adolescence almost blighted a promising teenage semi-pro football career.

I knew no better. Once I'd mastered clippers (I was desperate to wrest them from mother's hands), I cut them toenails as far back as I could without drawing blood, just as mother hadn't when we were at her mercy.

Breakdown of fingernail components
I do have a theory. We're talking early 70s, when shoe prices increased with your respective shoe size. I'm sure mother was looking to save a few bob by ensuring that my toenails never came close to leather at the toecaps. I guess we'll never know.

I digress. I must have been going through a growing spurt. During one match, our football club's kit-man/physio/shrink/chiropodist/trainer - I did say semi-pro - saw me hobbling. He pulled me off at half time. After that, he substituted me (joke!).

Upon whipping off my boots and socks, he reliably informed me that my toenails were ingrowing. The grooves along which they ought travel had all but disappeared and the free edge was embedded into the flesh. Both were the result of years of overambitious curtailment.

Where should I cut my nails to?

Toenails ought to be cut with a straight edge, level with the very tip of your toes, I was reliably informed. That way, any pressure placed on the nail bed from the toes beneath would be displaced by the nail itself.

As things stood - literally - the nail beds were curling back over my toes like Turkish slippers. The edges - or lateral nail folds - of my toenails curled underneath themselves like used staples. My toes were a mess.

I later learned that fingernails likewise should not retract beyond your fingertips. Rather, they should follow the fingertip around its lunar crescent. Hence the rounded shape of, you've guessed it, fingernail scissors.

It took a while to get used to holding the scissors with my left hand, but the thought of never having to clamp those half-moon teeth near tender flesh again was all the spur I needed...

Clippers or Scissors - what's the verdict?

Once the precision-engineered blades had removed the scrolling calcium and I'd taken the antibiotics to accompany the flesh-cutting nails (seriously, antibiotics is all they could do for that bit), I swore off nail-clippers for life.

Lethal? Let me rephrase that. Cheap nail clippers are evil in the wrong (or uneducated) hands!

Pressure on the pads, toes or fingers, isn't good if there's no nail beyond to help reinforce your pinkies. As I found out, long term abuse can lead to painful malformation or ingrowing nails. Or both.

It may not be terribly manly, soaking hands until your nails are scissor semi-pliant. But learning to cut one's right hand's fingernails with scissors with one's left hand is one of life's crowning achievements.

Just think, if I'd have ever learnt to kick with my left foot too, perhaps I wouldn't have had to wait for a kit-man-cum-chiropodist to tell me I'd got a problem with my toenails, either...



image courtesy of simplenails4you