Everyday life takes a toll on our nails. Whether typing at a keyboard or washing dishes, it’s easy for nails to look less than manicure-day perfect. What’s more, our nails give clues to potential problems inside our bodies, too.
“Your nails are a direct indicator of internal health and beauty,” says Dr. Tony Nakhla, medical director of the OC Skin Institute in Los Angeles and author of The Skin Commandments: 10 Rules to Healthy, Beautiful Skin.
If you notice an unusual change in nail color or texture, see your doctor to rule out any medical conditions. Everything from diseases of the heart, lungs and liver, to thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies may show signs through your nails.
Most nail issues, however, require only basic maintenance and care. Combat the most common problems with these simple tips for strong, beautiful nails.
Weak, peeling nails: Regular use of soap, water and harsh cleansers leave nails looking frayed. Keep nails trimmed, wear gloves when washing dishes or cleaning, and apply an over-the-counter nail moisturizer like Nailtiques Nail Moisturizer or a strengthening base coat like SpaRitual’s Protein Boost Strengthening Treatment. The base coat also helps glue down layers of nail plates so the nail can grow in a linear fashion, says Nakhla.
Boosting your iron, calcium, and B vitamins with a daily multivitamin fortifies nails from the inside out, says Nakhla. Eating plenty of whole grains, along with foods like potatoes, bananas, lentils, beans, and meats like turkey or tuna provide B-vitamins, too. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish like salmon and herring, help nails retain moisture and nail cohesiveness so the layers stick together, explains Nakhla.
Nail ridges:Ridges that run vertically (from the cuticle to the tip) are common and not a sign of nutritional deficiencies, says Dr. Ramzi Saad, a board-certified dermatologist at South Shore Skin Center and Spa near Boston. Saad suggests gently filing the ridges down or applying a commercial ridge filler such as OPI’s—or ask a manicurist to do it for you.
Discolored or stained nails: Applying lemon juice to the nail is an easy, inexpensive way to treat stained nails caused by dark nail polish or acrylic nails (which use lots of chemicals), Saad says. Rub lemon juice on the darkened area daily for 10 days to two weeks. Prevent nail polish staining by protecting the nail with a base coat first. If you notice white or yellow nails, or spots of blue or red that you’re sure aren’t from bruising or nail polish, see your doctor.