In our profession, working as dermatologists, plastic surgeons, oculoplastic surgeons, and aesthetic physicians and aestheticians, we often become completely focused just on skin, facial features, and prominent parts of the body. This means that more often than not we are out of touch with nails and hair, important features that contribute to our patients and clients overall look and are reflections of their health. These are in our purview and we should treat them as such.
At SCALE 2019 Music City, there will be opportunities to learn more about topics like this. In the meantime, here are some basics.
Your Nails, Like Your Skin, Are A Window Into Your Health
“Did you know your nails can reveal clues to your overall health? A touch of white here, a rosy tinge there, or some rippling or bumps may be a sign of disease in the body. Problems in the liver, lungs, and heart can show up in your nails.” (Source). Health Care Centers, the AARP, and even online publications such as Business Insider have provided information on the topic, helping people to take notice and seek medical attention when neccessary. With over 2 dozen well recognized signs that fingernails can show about poor health, or underlying disease, if you have not yet become versed in identifying these, you will likely want to be. Most of these signs apply to both fingernails and toenails. Some are easier to treat, such as fungus, while others will require a referral to a different medical provider.
While written by dermatologists and published specifically for providers of services for the disabled, the Color Fingernail Chart is a quick and easy guide. For reference, healthy nails should be “smooth, without pits or grooves. They’re uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration,” according to the Mayo Clinic. If they are healthy, then the focus for you and your clients should be on optimizing their look.
Your Hair Can Tell You If You Are Healthy
Much like nails, hair, which is also made of keratin, can be a window into health. If your hair is dull, brittle or thin, you have premature greying, or your scalp is dry, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue. Some of these may be caused by genetics, however in most cases they are linked to an illness or a diet that is lacking in something. For instance, “Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats are important for overall health, but dull hair could be a sign you aren’t getting enough… Zinc and iron are important for keratin production so not having enough of these can lead to changes in the structure of hair… essential fatty acids (Omega 3s) are important for the health of the follicles and they bring moisture to your hair and scalp.” (Source).
Tips for Healthy and Beautiful Hair and Nails
There are two components to achieving hair and nails that look beautiful. The first is health, and the other is maintenance.
Hair and nails will look better when a person is living a healthy lifestyle. These elements include:
- Adequate Sleep. Hair loss, breakage, damage, and even growth rate can all be affected by lack of sleep. Hair follicles (where hair growth begins) gain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from blood flow. Since blood flow decreases when we’re short on shut-eye, hair gets less food, it weakens, and it has difficulty growing… Lack of Zzz’s can also lead to more stress… “stress causes an increase in the hormone cortisol, which can cause you to lose hair.” (Source).
- Good, Balanced Diet. As noted above, there are foods that you can eat to help give you lustrous, shiny hair and strong nails. According to health.com, among these are a variety of foods including almonds, blueberries, salmon, red meat and milk – which provide a range of vitamins, minerals and proteins.
- Exercise. Apparently regular exercise helps hair and nails grow. Exercise helps to regenerate cells and slow the breakdown of proteins. It also helps to nourish hair follicles and nail beds by supplying the oxygen and blood circulation needed to provide sufficient nutrients. (Source).
- Good Hygiene. It is important to keep your scalp clean, hair washed and both properly conditioned. Regular trims will help avoid split ends that can destroy the integrity of the hair. Nails that are kept trimmed and smooth and feet that are kept dry, will help to prevent infections. Biting fingernails or picking at cuticles can cause the nail and nail bed to break down and become weak. Using harsh products on your nails or on your hair can cause damage to the skin surrounding it, leading to a breakdown in the systems that make for good health.
- Adequate Hydration. Not only does drinking enough water help keep you feeling great, but the benefits to physical appearance are pretty great, too. Sufficient water will help keep your hair and nails from becoming brittle and your skin from becoming dry and flaky. It can also help to keep your skin from thinning. The consensus in the scientific and medical world is that everyone should drink at least 8 8oz glasses of clean water a day. Too much caffeine, soda, sugary juice, or alcohol, can interrupt this, causing a need for more water to be consumed to stay healthy and well hydrated. (Source).