The concept of nail clippers for seniors implies that there is something unique about what makes a set of clippers better for older adults than everyone else. Well, there is. Our fingernails and toenails change as we grow older. This is precisely why so many seniors end up occupying podiatrists’ offices. As such, it’s not a big jump to expect that the nail clippers we’ve used most of our lives will need to change as our nails change.
How Do Our Nails Change as We Age?
Many people think that nails should decline in health as we age. This idea may be a reflection of what happens in our own bodies. As we age we tend to get sicker. We generally attribute the following changes to nails in older adults:
- Slow growth (less than 0.1 inch per month)
- Nail color gets more yellowed and opaque
- Toenails get thick and hard to cut
- Ingrown toenails
- Toenails grow less than usual (0.04 inch per month)
- White spots on your nails
But when you look at this list of nail changes as we age, all of them (with the exception of ingrown toenails) have to do with health and nutrient status. Here’s why:
1. Healthy Growth of Nails
You can’t grow nails (or skin or hair) if you don’t have enough protein, vitamin A, zinc, biotin, silica, or iodine – and that’s for starters. If any of these are provided in suboptimal levels, it will seem like nails take forever to grow. On the other hand, when you have enough of all these nutrients, your nails grow just as fast as they did when you were younger (or faster if you were deficient at a young age).
Other nutrients that affect your nails overall include vitamin B2, B3, B6, B12, vitamin D, vitamin K, iron, copper and essential fatty acids. Vitamins help our overall health, from nail growth to hearing.
2. Infected Nails Signal Your Immune System
Nails get thick and hard to cut if they are infected by fungal infections or bacterial infections. It’s common for people’s deficiencies to catch up to them by the time they get to their 50s.
If levels of protein, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, silica, iodine, zinc, selenium and vitamin C are low in the body, it will be difficult to have a fully functioning immune system. That’s when nail infections, usually fungal infections, can easily take hold.
And because their immune systems are not functioning optimally, all the usual remedies for nail fungus won’t work. The underlying problem is immune system dysfunction so applying all the remedies or getting all the doctor’s treatments will be limited in their effectiveness.
3. Nail Color Tells You How Clean You are On the Inside
Another of the nail changes as we age is the color becomes yellowed and opaque or basically discolored. To determine why this happens, you have to know about how the body detoxifies itself.
The largest detox organ in the body is skin and nails. If your body is housing a high number of toxins – heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals, artificial preservatives and anything else considered a toxin to the body – those toxins will be released through the skin and nails, as well as through the colon and urine.
How do we know this is true when no one has ever mentioned it to you before? We know it by talking to patients that are doing treatments that purify the toxins from the body, such as colonics. One of the benefits of colonics is better and stronger nails, and they become brighter. Other lymphatic cleansing routines in natural healing also show similar better nails with prettier colors.
Other illnesses affect the nails. For example, psoriasis will cause pitting of the nails. B vitamin deficiencies will cause ridges in the nails. Anemia causes a spoon-like appearance of the nails. Blood sugar levels that are too high also make you more susceptible for nail infections.
4. White Spots on the Nails
White spots on the nails indicate zinc deficiency or a bout with the flu. However, when you have the flu, your zinc levels fall, so the two are connected.
How Does Diet Impact Nail Health?
Diet is the biggest factor that affects nails. What you eat affects every cell in your body. If what you are eating is nourishing you every way possible, you will look the healthiest and most radiant you could look. If what you are eating is not nourishing you, your nails will take a hit and start looking ragged, will be weaker than usual, will split and crack and you will run into other problems with them.
One California nutritionist we interviewed said that one of the best foods for nail growth is a protein shake with added super foods and nutrients. She tells her patients to add food grade diatomaceous earth, bee pollen, alfalfa, bone meal, acai berry concentrate, and sprouted almonds to the shake. This combination contains every nutrient you’ll need for a healthy immune system and nails. The mixture of nutrients may also be mixed in to yogurt or kefir milk.
“Nails respond quickly and you can see a big difference within a few weeks. They grow up to twice as fast as before adding the shake to your diet, and grow long without breaking. You don’t need acrylics when your nails are strong and healthy,” she said.
3 Best Nail Clippers for Older Adults
Regular nail clippers aren’t the best choice for older adults. Once the nails thicken or are infected, you’ll need toenail clippers that are stainless steel, can handle thickened nails, or are shaped with long handle design for easy reaching. Some are built for right or left-handed individuals, and all should cut hardened, ingrown, and infected nails easily.
Wide jaws allows you to cut thicker nails and the big toe nails which are the widest of all nails. Some nail clippers have a nail catcher area to catch the clippings, a plus since one can never know where those clippings are going to fly to! Plus, they’re pretty unsightly on the floor.
1) Tiptop Mycotic Toenail Clipper – (Podiatrist recommended)
This one is so sturdy that it looks like it will last for 100 years. It comes with a safety lock which others may not have. Simple to use and you might want to check for a Youtube video on it. You won’t find much description on Amazon for it since it’s created for doctors. It’s 7.5 x 2.5 x 0.8 inches and only weighs 5.6 ounces. Its best seller rank is #3 in the category of Medical Nail and Tissue Nippers.
If podiatrists use these, you know they are good and can be depended on for lasting years.
2) Long Handle Scissors for Elderly Individuals
- 100% Hot Forged Surgical Stainless Steel Easy Reach Scissor - Will not rust
- Long Extended Handles for Precise Cut, especially for those with mobility issues and the elderly.
These are pretty simple but they will get the job done. The surgical grade handles are extra long for easy reach and you’ll see angular and sharp blades with pointed tips to make cutting a quick snap If you’ve gained a little weight around the middle and find it difficult to reach down to cut your toenails, these could help. The stainless steel blades do cut through nails that are thick and hard because of infections. The finger holes are symmetrical, not sized so you can use them either on your right hand or your left. If they ever break, you have a lifetime guarantee.
3) Kohm Wide Jaw Toenail Clippers
- EXTRA SHARP: Designed with an ultra-sharp straight blade and a wide jaw, our professional nail clipper is perfect for ingrown nail prevention and clipping thick or ingrown nails and toenails.
- DURABLE: Built with alloy coated, high-quality stainless steel, our heavy-duty, double-sided, toenail clippers for thick nails trim tough nails with utmost precision.
This company offers your choice of a straight blade or a curved blade, 5 mm or 6 mm, rubber grip or straight edge. People who have tried the clippers are usually amazed at how easy it is to clip a nail with this brand. That’s why you’ll see these used at nail salons. The ergonomic design pays off, and that’s important for you if you have any disability in your hands due to arthritis or other reasons. These are made of a heavy duty coated alloy so they weigh less than stainless steel versions. If you have deformed nails due to fungus, they recommend their podiatry version called Toenail Nippers. Ingrown toenail version here
Basic Nail Care for Older Adults
Here’s a list of guidelines to use when you want the most ideal basic nail care for older adults.
1. Check your nails and feet daily, especially if you are diabetic. Make an appointment with your podiatrist or general practitioner if you find any suspicious sores.
2. Do a foot soak once a week. Adding a few drops of an antifungal essential oil such as oregano oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon, lemon, or lavender. This will soften your toenails and get you used to a routine of nail care. Plus it smells so good and deodorizes your feet. It’s something to look forward to when you can add essential oils to the foot soak.
3. Sanitize your nail clippers before and after using them. Alcohol wipes are good for this purpose.
4. When you start cutting your nails, begin with the healthiest nails first. Trim these. Then trim the infected ones. Remember that it’s easy to transfer fungal infections to a healthy nail.
5. Don’t cut the nail at the ends to make them try to look curved. Trimming them straight across is best. Here’s a podiatry nail trimming video to show you how to use professional tools: https://youtu.be/7aPgewP669w
6. There are natural pumice stones and natural oils such as shea oil to make your nails shine and soften your cuticles. Nail files should be used to file jagged parts of the nail once weekly. Take a look at this natural nail care routine video.
Consider a little extra pampering after nail care is completed, such as a professional foot massage.
The health of your body determines the health of your nails. Your nutritional status determines the health of your nails. Devoting extra time to getting your vitamin and mineral status right goes a long way towards giving you healthy nails that you desire.
When caring for your nails, it’s not just the type of toenail clippers you buy that matters. It’s also determined by what’s going inside your mouth. Whether you have a depressed immune system, diabetes, or other conditions that affect your nails, you still need solid nutrients to build those nails. Starting with the diatomaceous earth in your drink or yogurt is the fastest way to healthier nails. Check out the top nail clippers for seniors on Amazon with the links in this article.
DiBaise, M. and Tarleton, S.M. Hair, nails, and skin: differentiating cutaneous manifestations of micronutrient deficiency. Nutr Clin Pract 2019 Aug;34(4):490-503.
Almessiere, M.A., et al. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of human nails to find correlation between nutrients and vitamin D deficiency using LIBS and ICP-AES. Talenta 2018 Aug 1;185:61-70.
Dawman, L., et al. Blue nails: window to micronutrient deficiency. BMJ Case Rep 2018 Mar 5;2018:bcr2018224258.
Noppakun, N. and Swasdikul, D. Reversible hyperpigmentation of skin and nails with white hair due to vitamin B12 deficiency. Arch Dermatol 1986 Aug;122(8):896-9.
Phone Interview, July 2, 2021 with Clinical Nutritionist Dr. Donna Schwontkowski, Retired Chiropractic Physician, M.S. Nutrition and Master’s in Herbology.
Hoffman, Kristine, DPM. When vitamin and nutritional deficiencies cause skin and nail changer. Podiatry Today, January 2015. https://www.hmpgloballearningnetwork.com/site/podiatry/when-vitamin-and-nutritional-deficiencies-cause-skin-and-nail-changes