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Is it safe to wear nail polish all summer?

Many women maintain a pedicure all summer long, but is it safe to keep toenails polished for months at a time? Jocelyn Curry, DPM, a podiatrist at Piedmont, says you may want to give your toenails a break for both health and cosmetic reasons. Here she separates the myths and facts about summer's must-have beauty product.

Nail polish can dry out your nails: TRUE

"Leaving your nail polish on for too long can dry out the nails, leaving them brittle," says Dr. Curry. "Thin, brittle nails pose a health hazard because the nail is a barrier to keep out bacteria and fungus."

Dark colors cause stains and yellowing: TRUE

"If you wear dark polish colors, pigment can leak into the nail, staining it yellow," says Dr. Curry.

While staining isn't necessarily a health hazard, it can take up to a year for nails to return to their normal color. Toenails grow more slowly than fingernails, taking nine months to a year to grow out, while fingernails take only about four to six months.

Nail polish can lead to toenail fungus: (PARTIALLY) TRUE

If you notice nail color changes, but aren't sure if it's related to dark polish, a podiatrist can test your nails to see if discoloration is a symptom of a fungus or yeast.

Most toenail fungus is easy to treat, but take precautions not to spread it to others. Dr. Curry advises bringing your own polish with you to a salon if you have toenail fungus or just want extra peace of mind.

"While some brands of polish have enough preservatives to keep fungus or bacteria from growing, salons use the same bottle of polish for many customers and there is a small risk of the polish harboring fungus or bacteria from another person," says Dr. Curry.

Nail polish can expire: FALSE

Dr. Curry says using older nail polish isn't dangerous, but lumpy, dry varnish may not give you the results you desire.

"Consistency will tell you when to throw it away," she says.

It's okay to wear polish all summer if you take a break in the winter: TRUE

Can't resist dark shades? Remove polish every two weeks and give your nails a breather for a day or so. Or switch to light polish, which doesn't need to be changed as often since there's a lower risk of it staining your nails.

If you can't imagine a summer with unpolished piggies, Dr. Curry says it's okay to keep your nails painted for a few months, but go bare during fall and winter months so the nails can breathe.

Learn more about how to keep your feet healthy and in top shape.

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