When was the last time you really took a nice, long look at your fingernails? Between all the trimming, buffing and polishing, few of us actually stop to think about the condition of our nails beyond the state of our recent manicure. But our nails reflect more than just our fashion sense, they also say a lot about our health. Bumps, ridges, peeling and pits are clues to our overall health and could even be an early warning sign for underlying issues. But rest easy–not all nail problems should have you running to the doctor.
7 Things Your Nails Might Be Telling You
Here are seven things your nails might be telling you, what you can do about it and when it might be time to go see your doc.
Splitting and peeling fingernails are actually quite common. While your genes usually play a role, exposing your hands to the winter elements, harsh chemicals or too much hot water can wreak havoc on your nails causing them to peel. But don’t panic, a quality moisturizer and some TLC will have your nails back in tip top shape in no time.
Massage your nails daily with a mix of olive oil and coconut oil to help replenish moisture. For an added boost, increase your intake of Vitamin A, B, biotin, protein and O-3 fatty acids to nourish nails from the inside out or try a supplement specifically formulated to strengthen nails, like Hum Nutrition’s Killer Nails.
2. Yellow Tint
As serious (and unsightly) as it looks, yellow nails are usually caused by dark fingernail polish that’s been left on a little too long. It’s best to prevent yellow nails from the get go, but if you can’t keep your hands off the dark polish, you can try lightening your nails instead.
Use a buffing board to gently remove the upper layer of yellow skin cells. Then mix a tablespoon of baking soda with a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide and let it fizz for a few seconds. Dip a toothbrush in the mixture and gently scrub each nail until the yellow tint is gone.
If, after some buffing and scrubbing, you’re still left with yellow nails, you might have a nail fungus. A little gross, I know, but it happens to the best of us! Obviously, if you’re in pain or you notice a change in your nail texture such as pitting, you should go see a doctor ASAP.
But if all you’re experiencing is a little discoloration that won’t go away, put a few drops of tea tree oil onto your nail beds and massage it in for several minutes before rinsing with warm water. Do this twice a day for a few months until you notice improvement.
3. Brittle or Thin Nails
Did you know that fingernails are about 10 times more absorbent than skin? This makes them highly susceptible to all sorts of external factors that might make them soft and breakable. Everything from seasonal weather changes to nail polish remover can cause your nails to become weaker and tear more easily.
The best way to strengthen your nails is to just give them a break. Avoid wearing nail polish for several months to let the nail layers regenerate and wear gloves when you do the dishes to avoid exposing your nails to chemicals. If you spend a lot of time in water, trying keeping your hands as dry as possible (i.e. avoid pruney fingers next time you take a bath!).
If all else fails, take a high-quality biotin supplement or eat more biotin-rich foods like eggs, broccoli and legumes to encourage your nails to grow in thicker.
Vertical ridges (starting at the nail bed and extending to the edge of your nail) are usually nothing to worry about and are simply a sign of aging. Much like wrinkles of the skin, nail ridges become more prominent as we get older. To help prevent ridges in the first place, focus on eating a balanced diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.
If you already have ridges, massage a dab of Vitamin E oil into your nails twice a day to help make them appear less prominent or grab a buffing board next time you’re at the pharmacy and buff them away.
5. Blue Tint
A bluish tinge to the nails is a sign that your fingers aren’t getting enough oxygen. It may just be a temporary issue caused by exposure to cold temperatures, in which case you should invest in a pair of gloves. But if you find that your nails often appear blue, even if you don’t feel cold, definitely go see a doctor.
6. White Lines
Random white lines or splotches that move along as the nail grows are often caused by nail trauma (think suddenly bending a nail backward) and are typically nothing to worry about. They should eventually go away on their own.
However white lines that extend horizontally across all of your nails are known as Muehrcke Lines, and they often indicate low protein levels in the blood. Make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet and see if they disappear on their own within a few weeks. If they don’t, they could indicate a more serious disorder like liver or kidney disease, and you should definitely go see a doctor to rule out underlying health issues.
While not technically a fingernail issue, hangnails are annoying and painful to say the least. These small pieces of skin gather around the cuticles of your nails, and when they rip or tear they could lead to painful swelling and infection.
To get rid of them quickly, soak your nails in a gentle hand bath for about 15 minutes every day. Follow it up by massaging Vitamin E oil into your nails for several minutes and letting it soak into your cuticles. If you already have painful hangnails, apply a drop of raw honey to your cuticles to prevent infection and lock in extra moisture.