Do you cut your nails when they're wet or dry?

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Registered: 10-05-2000
Do you cut your nails when they're wet or dry?
Thu, 07-26-2012 - 10:10am

I've always cut my nails dry but here's an article on the debate:

Water  damage

Hair and nail chemistry is pretty similar and it’s well documented that repeated cycles of wetting and drying has a damaging effect on hair. My hypothesis is that the mechanism works the same on nails. Water absorption, followed by drying, followed by water absorption, could cause tiny cracks in nails to spread which would ultimately cause damage. Occasional wet cutting is probably fine but prolonged exposure to water could cause a problem.

If it feels good, do it?

So why do you like the feel of cutting your nails when wet? It’s not really that surprising because the flexibility of nails increases with water content (see reference.)  The moisture softens the keratin so as the blade of the nail trimmer breaks through the nail there’s a less of an “snap.” But is a more comfortable nail cutting experience worth the potential future damage? That, as we say in the cosmetic science business, is a testable proposition.

Nail cutting experiment

Until someone can find a scientific paper on this subject here is a mini test you can do at home. The hypothesis is that soaking the nail before cutting leaves the nail susceptible to increased damage. The test could be a simple side-by-side test. For some period of time (probably a month) you could cut the nails on both hands differently. One way to do it would be to cut the left-hand  dry and the right-hand wet.  But  that could lead to a handedness bias when you’re doing the actual cutting.(Maybe you cut your nails differently when you use the clipper in your dominant hand for example) It would be better if you could alternate fingers on each hand by soaking every other finger. This is a more awkward process but would ultimately give you better results. Regardless of how you choose to set up the experiment the idea is to compare wet-cut vs dry-cut nails after some period of time and observe the degree of damage in each.