Fingernails are fascinating. Women, and many men, spend as much time grooming and dressing them up as they do their hair and makeup. There is a reason why there are so many nail salons. Good grooming includes good fingernail care, which in many circles includes painted nails. In some professions, however, nail polish is strictly not allowed (for instance, for food service workers). The same holds true for acrylic nails or other nail extensions. That said, there are some other very good reasons why the natural nail should show through, as we in the medical field, are aware.
It is because fingernails are one of the places that we can take a quick glance and get a decent indication of a person’s overall health. TSLMS is an advocate for health and beauty, and this is one place where that perfectly intersects.
What Healthy Fingernails Look Like
Healthy nails are smooth, they are even and they are devoid of tints or splotches of color. They are strong with even ridges and cuticles. Healthy fingernails on moisturized hands have skin that is not cracked or peeling. Most people do not have perfectly healthy fingernails or hands, however. So enter the manicure. Manicures are salon-assisted, or at-home fingernail beautification processes. The trick to these procedures, though, is that while they can shape and cover up weak, discolored, or uneven textures, they do not actually make the fingernails more healthy.
There are some supplements that people can take which may help strengthen nails. These include, according to HealthLine: biotin, other b-vitamins, iron, magnesium, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin-C, and zinc. These can be taken as supplements or consumed through a balanced and healthy diet. And yes, they might instigate healthier and stronger nails, but much of that likely has to do with a healthier and stronger overall human system. Afterall, the diet that we eat has a direct influence on our well being. “Overall, if you want strong, shiny nails, be sure to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in your diet, as well as adequate protein and omega-3 fatty acids,” they point out.
There is a fantastic guide online that shows what healthy and unhealthy nails look like. It is, in our humble opinion, well worth looking at.
What Unhealthy Fingernails Look Like
This is a topic that there is actually an overwhelming amount of information on. There are a number of indicators of unhealthy nails that you can look to. Most of these identify an underlying health issue that any health professional will notice pretty quickly. That said, if you have doubts about your nails, or the nails of your clients, this is the right place to look for insight. The Mayo Clinic points out:
Your nails are part of your skin. They are made up of layers of the protein keratin and grow from beneath the base of the nail under your cuticle. As new cells grow, older cells become hard and compacted and are eventually pushed out toward your fingertips. Healthy nails are smooth, without ridges, grooves, spots or discoloration. Nails can develop harmless conditions, such as vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Vertical ridges often become more prominent with age. Nails can also develop white lines or spots as a result of injury, but these grow out with the nail and do not cause problems. In some cases, a change in your nails may be caused by stress in your body. For example, if you have a high fever, a serious injury or infection, or another severe illness, your nails may stop growing for a while. That’s because, due to the extra demands placed on it, your body shifts energy away from the low priority of growing nails. When your nails start growing again, you may notice horizontal lines across your nails. These are called Beau’s lines, and they show where the nail growth stopped temporarily. Beau’s lines grow out eventually and are not a cause for concern.
There are a number of nail changes, though, that can signal an underlying medical problem. A change in your nail color requires attention, especially if your nails start to turn yellow or red or if stripes or dots of color appear on your nails. Color changes could be the result of a nail fungus or, in some cases, they may be a sign of skin cancer. Conditions like liver failure and kidney problems can also change your nail color, turning nails white or yellow at the tips or near the cuticles. Yellow nails can be the result of a respiratory condition, such as chronic bronchitis, as well.
Clubbing of your nails — when your nails curve much more than usual — is often a sign of low oxygen levels in the blood and may be related to lung disease. Clubbing can also be the result of heart disease, liver problems or inflammatory bowel disease. Another nail condition, called spoon nails or koilonychia, involves nails growing in a pattern that looks like a ski jump. Spoon nails can be a sign of iron deficiency anemia. Other nail changes that could be a cause for concern include dimpling, indentations, splitting or pitting of your nails. Any of these changes could point to one of dozens of skin disorders that can affect the nails. For example, psoriasis, a common skin disease that causes skin cells to rapidly build up; lichen planus, an inflammatory condition that can affect your skin; and dermatitis, another inflammatory skin disorder, can all show up in your nails.
The chart we referred to in the first section of this installment of our blog pointed out that there are plenty of other indicators of unhealthy nails.
Why Fingernails Show Your Health
As we pointed out above, fingernails are an extension of the skin. By default that means that they are influenced by the same things: food, hydration, lifestyle and overall health. Those that live a balanced and healthy lifestyle will likely not need any nail help – their nails will just be beautiful. Strong. Even. Smooth. And without ridges, bumps, or off-colors.