Up until recently I’ve been visiting a family member in the hospital fairly regularly and one day while waiting for the elevator, I happened to notice an older woman who was sporting black fingernail polish. This struck me as unusual since it’s not typically the color of choice for a woman her age.
She noticed I was checking them out (I wasn’t staring, honest!) and smiled. She proceeded to share why she wears such a dark color: It’s a method of protecting her nails from chemo treatments…and of course, being a tip nut, I was quite intrigued.
Curious, but not wanting to pester her with questions, I decided to do a bit of research on my own and check things out for myself once I got home. Here’s what I’ve learned:
It’s well known hair loss may happen while receiving chemotherapy, but did you realize that nail damage can also occur? They’ll tend to become brittle, discolored, break or peel easily and even total loss.
It’s particularly common with breast cancer patients and those treated with drugs from the taxane group since one side effect of the drug can be sensitivity to sunlight (which is what could be affecting the nails).
Once the beds are bare and unprotected, painful infections are prone to flare up–this can be dangerous especially when one’s immune system is low.
The theory is that by applying a coat of black (on both fingers and toes), it effectively blocks out the light. Brush on at least two coats and keep it on as long as possible. Instead of removing it as it’s damaged or chipped, just apply a fresh layer over top. The acetone in the remover is harsh, especially during this time when the body is more sensitive.
If the shade is too stark (and depressing) for personal tastes, maybe try a base in black then deep purples, reds or blues on top. The darker the tint, the better.
How about wearing acrylics? Apparently they’re not recommended and medical staff will strictly advise to remove them before treatment (likely because they easily trap and harbor bacteria which can be dangerous for someone who has to be diligent and careful), however polish seems to be just fine.
For added protection, try frequently rubbing in moisturizer or olive oil (straight or mixed with tea tree oil). It’s also beneficial to pull on rubber gloves while washing dishes and doing chores. Keep things nice & tidy with regular trimmings (will help prevent snags & tears). It’s also advised to push back cuticles rather than trimming off, again, making no opportunity for infection is the goal here.
If inflammation or tenderness develops around the fingernail area, or they become infected, inform your doctor promptly.
Does the trick work? I really have no way of knowing for sure but because the cost and effort are minimal, I’d consider it worthwhile trying. If you have any first-hand experience or have other tips to help chemo patients, please share in the comments section below, there are a lot of people are looking for any good advice they can get!