By Julie-Ann Sherlock

Don’t you just love that glossy, newly done nail look that you get right after you step out of the nail bar? And looking at your perfectly painted toenails peeping out of your sandals is one of life’s simple pleasures for sure. But did you know that taking care of those lumps of keratin (yup, the same substance your hair is made from) at the ends of our hands and feet is not just about vanity? 

Sure, having conversation-starting designs or long, elegantly shaped nails looks fabulous. They can even make the scruffiest of people (me!) look tidy and looked after. But treating yourself to a mani/pedi can do a whole lot more than just improve your aesthetic. It can help with your physical and mental health too. 

Don’t believe me? Read on…

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

We all know that the sooner you deal with a health-threatening problem, the better. While having an ingrown toenail or a fungal infection may not put your life in danger, they can be very painful, open you up to other illnesses and, quite frankly, be disgusting to look at. 

I have had to have two operations on my big toe thanks to an ingrown toenail, so I know how painful they can be. However, a simple thing like this, if left untreated, can actually escalate into a more serious issue, such as a bone infection or complications for diabetics. Getting a regular pedicure could help identify a problem before it becomes too painful or needs urgent medical care. Steps can be taken to prevent it from flaring into the throbbing, stinging reality of a full-blown ingrown toenail. 

Likewise, fungal infections in the toe or fingernails can lead to nasty complications, particularly for those with diabetes. They can cause discolouration to the nails, but worse, they can spread on the feet and hands and other parts of the body, causing itchiness and some not so pleasant odours. A good nail salon will notice the beginnings of infection and recommend you visit the doctor for treatment, preventing it from becoming a bigger issue. 

While I think of it, it is vital that you choose a salon with high standards of hygiene and skills, or you could end up getting a fungal infection or an ingrown toenail! Make sure that all the tools they use are sterilised and that they know what they are doing before you let them loose on your nails. 

Problems like bunions, corns or rough, dry skin on your feet can be detected and treated while getting a pedicure, making walking a more comfortable experience and maybe saving you from arthritis in your feet. Regularly manicured fingers rarely have snag nails that can be painful and bleed just from catching in your sweater. 

The massaging aspects of the treatments give your extremities a blood-flow boost, improving circulation while also moisturising to prevent the skin from cracking and allowing nasty infections to enter your body. 

Stress Busting 

Taking some much-needed me-time to have a mani/pedi can do so much good for your mental health. Most of us lead busy, stressful lives these days—highly damaging to our physical and physiological health. Booking an hour at a nail salon to get the works done could save your life!

That time in the chair, feeling pampered and switching off from the daily grind can feel as good as taking a nap. The relaxing hand and foot massages, the delight in choosing a colour or design and the feeling of just taking care of yourself can induce a more positive mindset and help you face the issues in your life with renewed vigour. There are even theories about the colours we choose and how they can reflect or enhance our moods. 

For some, going to the salon can be a very social thing. Chatting to the therapist or, if you go with a friend, catching up on the gossip while your paint job dries can be very therapeutic. For others, (me) it can be an escape from socialising. I talk a lot, so sometimes, it is nice to go somewhere and shut the world out (and my mouth) for a while and just relax. 

While the varnish is setting, you really can do nothing more than unwind, or you will end up smudging it, making nail time a great excuse to shut off from the constant emails and messaging of your day to day. If that ain’t self-care, I don’t know what is!

So next time you feel guilty about spending money or time in a salon getting a mani/pedi, reassure yourself that you are not merely being vain and caring for your appearance. You are also looking after your physical and mental health, and that is worth every penny.