You can tell a lot about a person’s health and well-being by looking at their nails. Just by taking a quick glance, an expert can tell whether a person has nutritional deficiencies or long-term health issues, such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, anemia, lung disease, liver disease, or cardiovascular disease.
As we know, nails are not only an aesthetic feature, although well-cared-for nails are often a sign that a person is hygienic and put together. Tidy, well-kept nails perfectly complete any outfit, and they look professional to boot.
Luckily, you don’t need to go to a nail salon for excellent nail care. Salons not only drain your wallet, but they have a pretty large impact on your health and on the environment as well—what with all those chemicals they use on a daily basis.
What do your nails say about your health? Here’s the quick lowdown.
What Your Nails Say about Your Health
Dry, Cracked, or Brittle Nails
Your lifestyle plays a major role in this type of nail problem. If you’re one to always have your nails polished and treated, the chemicals in your nail polish and nail polish remover—not to mention any other chemicals that may be used in a nail salon—may be drying out your nails.
You may also have dry nails if you are constantly being exposed to water, cleaning products, or if you live in a dry climate.
Dry, cracked nails are also a sign of hypothyroidism. Additionally, they may indicate a deficiency in vitamins A and C, or in the B vitamin biotin.
Healthy nails are smooth. If your nails are rippled or pitted, this may be a sign of an inflammatory condition like psoriasis, eczema, or inflammatory arthritis.
Rippled nails may also be caused by a deficiency in calcium, zinc, or vitamin A.
Consistent use of acrylic nails or nail polish may cause yellowing in the nails. However, the most common cause of yellow nails is a fungal infection.
If the nails are treated for fungal infection and they are still yellow, it may be a sign of a more serious medical condition such as thyroid disease, psoriasis, or diabetes.
Nail clubbing is a condition in which your fingertips become enlarged and the nails become curved and grow downward.
This is a sign of low oxygen in the blood and may indicate lung disease. It may also be a sign of inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, kidney disease, and AIDS.
White spots in the nail are usually a sign of trauma and no cause for concern. If the nail begins to grow in completely white, then you may want to have tests done to rule out kidney or liver problems.
Indented, Curved Nails
Nails that curve upward, taking on a spoon-like appearance, may indicate iron-deficiency anemia or a hemochromatosis—a disorder in which the body has too much iron.
If you do have any of the symptoms indicated above, talk to your doctor about doing testing to rule out the more serious health concerns indicated by these nail problems.
Natural Nail Care
For beautiful, healthy nails, skip the weekly salon visit and start focusing on these healthy habits at home.
1. Nutrient-Rich Diet
One of the main causes of unhealthy nails is a nutrient deficiency. Brittle, dry nails may indicate a deficiency in calcium or vitamin A. White spots mean you may be missing iron or zinc. Cracking nails allude to protein or iron deficiency. White lines in the nails may be caused by lack of zinc or protein in your diet. Curved and darkened nails may mean a vitamin B12 deficiency.
For healthy nails, make sure you’re getting the following vitamins and micronutrients in your diet. You may even want to supplement for extra strong and healthy nails.
- Collagen Peptides. A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that supplementation with collagen peptides improved nail growth by 12 percent and reduced frequency of broken nails by 42 percent. (1)
- Vitamin A. This essential vitamin strengthens bones, tissues, and teeth and plays a role in nail growth. The best sources of vitamin A include cod liver oil, eggs, fortified foods (e.g., breakfast cereals, milk, orange juice), dark leafy greens, and orange vegetables.
- Biotin. This B vitamin is shown to encourage nail growth and strengthen nails at the core of the nail, where new cells are generated. One study showed that biotin supplementation completely reversed brittle nail syndrome. (2) Good sources of biotin include organ meats, eggs, almonds, seeds, cauliflower, mushrooms, salmon, and sweet potato.
- Zinc. Zinc is one of the most abundant minerals in your body. It helps the body absorb protein, and so it plays a major role in strong, healthy nails. Zinc deficiency can cause slow growth and discoloration of the nails. Good sources of zinc include oysters, red meat, poultry, salmon, beans, nuts, whole grains, and zinc-fortified foods.
- Iron. Nails may be weak or misshapen due to iron deficiency. To fix this problem, increase both vitamin C intake (it helps with absorption of iron) and iron intake.
- Calcium. Deficiency in calcium may result in dry, brittle, and weak nails. Increase vitamin K2 intake as well, as this vitamin directs the calcium to where it needs to go.
- Protein. Nails are composed mainly of keratin, a type of protein that is essential in the makeup of hair, nails, and skin. Protein deficiency can lead to weak, brittle nails. To ensure that you’re getting enough protein, eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, dairy products, quinoa, nuts, and seeds.
Apply moisturizing lotion daily, and make sure to rub it into your cuticles and nails too. Soap and hand sanitizer can dry out the skin and nail bed, so carry hand lotion around and apply it after every wash.
3. Avoid Harmful Chemicals
Hard nail polish, acetone, cleaning products, and other chemical-laden products can totally destroy your skin and nails. Go natural and seek out nail products that are free from toxic chemicals, such as toluene, dibutyl, phthalate, dimethyl, diethyl phthalates, camphor, and formaldehyde. Use natural and organic cleaning, gardening, and household products.
4. Give Your Nails a Rest
If you regularly polish, file, buff, and repolish, it may be time to let your nails take a little breather. Take regular breaks from nail polish and let your nails go naked.
It’s also good to know when to stop filing, picking, and pulling at them. Avoid picking at your nails, cuticles, and hangnails, and just let those problems work themselves out.
5. Learn Proper Cuticle Care
For good nail care, stop cutting and clipping those cuticles. They’re there to create a barrier against fungi and bacteria, and clipping them can lead to infection. Instead, use a lotion or oil to moisturize them and gently push them back with a cuticle pusher.
Natural Nail Infection Home Remedies
Bacterial and fungal nail infections can be pretty uncomfortable and embarrassing. Before running off to the doctor and applying all sorts of chemicals to your nails, try these home remedies that are proven to work.
Essential oils are known to be antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral. Studies show that they are effective in eliminating bacteria and fungus that cause infections in fingernails and toenails. (3)(4) Try eucalyptus, tea tree, orange, geranium, and patchouli essential oils to get rid of bacterial and fungal nail infections.
VapoRub contains two ingredients that have been shown to knock out the toenail fungus. Camphor and eucalyptus oil are the two active ingredients that naturally treat infected toenails and nails, according to a 2011 study. (5)
Although anecdotal, the evidence seems to point to vinegar as an effective remedy for treating toenail fungus. Soak the affected foot in one part vinegar to two parts warm water for 20 minutes each day until the infection has cleared.
Garlic has incredible antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Apply crushed garlic to the affected nail/s for 30 minutes daily. For a less smelly treatment, start taking garlic capsules daily to treat from the inside out.
You can have healthy, strong, and beautiful nails by avoiding salons and caring for your nails naturally. Eat right, moisturize regularly, and avoid harmful chemicals, and your nails will reflect your overall good health!