Hands speak volumes about people’s personality. Nonetheless, nails are the most neglected part of our body. Unkempt nails reflect lack of personal hygiene, while well-groomed finger and toenails, undoubtedly, indicates a person’s neat, polished and healthy attitude. This gives him or her, edge over others, particularly, during job interviews, social and business engagements. Nevertheless, despite all sincere efforts to make them look beautiful most of us are bothered with brittle and dry nails that look awfully bad. However, the basic rule for having beautiful nails is having healthy nails. Weak, brittle nails provide an external indication of your health often suggesting some nutritional deficiency. Unexpected changes in the fingernails could also be a sign of several types of cancer. Therefore, it is imperative to keep your nails healthy. By using inexpensive methods, pampering them with tender loving care and treating any underlying medical condition, can sure make them healthy and pretty. Before we delve into those details let us take a quick look at the amazing structure of nails.
Fingernails and toenails are composed of millions of tiny keratin cells tightly packed together. The cells produce keratin fibres which cross each other intricately, like a net keeping the whole composition hard. The strength of our nails, however, depends largely on the arrangement of the cells, their precision in clinging to each other and the way they are interlinked with the keratin fibres.
Smooth nails without any dents, wrinkles, discolouration, or spots indicate that nails are healthy. However, at times they tend to pucker from the tip of the nails to the cuticles, which are quite normal and becomes more obvious with age.
The fingernails will reflect health problems or any kind of deficiency, when there are changes taking place. A few of them are listed below to keep you alert…
Change in nail colour
- Any discolouration occurring in the nail can signal health problems
- When a dark streak forms under the nail and if the size of the streak increases with time, this can indicate melanoma, in some rare cases.
- Splinter haemorrhages displaying vertical lines under the nails may be due to nail injury, certain drugs or diseases
- Change in the nail shape such as curling
- Nail thinning or thickening can be a sign of liver and kidney diseases, heart and lung conditions, anaemia and diabetes.
- Bleeding or discharge occurring in the nails could signal nail problems
- Swelling or pain with redness around the nails
- Nail separation from the surrounding skin
Consult your doctor or dermatologist immediately if you observe any one of the above conditions.
Although genes play a great role, concerning the strength of your nails, there are various other factors that we do in our everyday lives that have a great effect on our nails. Therefore, it is imperative to make a few changes in our lives.
For Healthy and Strong Nails
Stop biting your fingernails or pick at cuticles. This may have a great impact for developing bacterial infection, which can transmit the infectious germs from your fingers to mouth. On the other hand biting can damage the skin around your finger leading to painful ingrown nails. Both are painful medical conditions that require prolonged treatment. Therefore, if you have a tendency to bite your nails dip them in some bitter substance or polish your fingernails to avoid doing so.
Avoid using your fingernails as tools to open stubborn lids of cans, jars or for removing dirt, wax, and gum from surfaces. Besides breaking or peeling away a layer, you also risk, weakening and bending your nail.
Avoid acrylic fake fingernails, as they cause damage to your nails. Instead, simply get your own nails painted rather than having fake ones put on. It will help your nails stay healthy and help you avoid the damage.
Frequent trimming and filing of nails encourage growth and keep them healthy. Using clippers, trim them straight across, with a gentle curve at the tip. Keep toenails clipped straight across and avoid clipping them in at the sides to prevent ingrown nails.
Avoid filing your nails back and forth; instead file your nails in one direction only. Use a fine-textured emery board, since metal nail files are harsh on the nails.
Cuticles are often left untreated and neglected. However, the cuticles at the base of the nail are responsible for the health of our nails. Therefore, give a gentle massage to stimulate blood flow, enhance growth and prevent dryness and hangnails from developing.
While pulling off hangnails there are chances of ripping off the live tissue along with the hangnail. Instead, carefully clip off hangnails.
Most women apply nail polish to make their nails attractive. A thin coat of clear nail polish can help retain moisture in your fingernails avoiding them from drying and eventually breaking. However, never skip base coat and always use good quality nail polish, manufactured by a renowned cosmetic company. Do not use cheap variety as they contain harmful chemicals that may permanently damage nails.
According to dermatologists, Nail polish removers containing acetone or formaldehyde make the nails terribly dry. Therefore, it is safe to use fragrance-free, acetate-based removers twice a month (only). Also remember to moisturize and massage your nails every time you use nail polish remover, to re-hydrate them and then apply nail polish. If nail polish peels off, instead of using a remover, reapply nail polish. .
If you wear polish, let your nails go “bare” for a few days each month to let the air get to them.
Moisturizing fingernails help keep them hydrated and avoids causing brittleness. Smooth away dryness with a moisturizing hand cream containing collagen and vitamin E that are especially good for the nails. You can also massage the nails with jojoba oil especially after exposure of fingernails to water. Push the cuticles back first and then apply the moisturizer, rubbing it into the nail and skin around the nail.
Maintain good personal hygiene to prevent bacteria and fungi from growing under the nails.
Keep your hands dry. When hands are constantly in water, the nails become soft and brittle having a tendency to tear and break easily.
Detergents and other harsh chemicals that nails are exposed to, during various household activities can damage them. Wear protective cotton-lined vinyl gloves whenever you do household chores to avoid irritation and dryness.
When you go out during winter, wear gloves to protect your nails, as temperature during winter can make your nails dry and deteriorate.
An occasional pedicure and manicure does wonders for your nails and boosts confidence. However, visit authorized salons and make sure the tools used are sterilized to prevent any kind of bacterial infection that require long time treatment. Do not permit the beautician to push back the cuticle to expose the nails or have them removed to prevent undue damage.
Apart from everyday nail care, consuming a healthy diet comprising of whole, raw foods like vegetables, fruits in abundance along with including protein-rich foods like fish, is very crucial and help build healthy fingernails and toenails. Take a glass of milk and a hard-boiled egg everyday to increase zinc intake. Zinc works wonders to promote healthy nails sans white spots, a sign of zinc deficiency.
As far as vitamins are concerned take biotin or fish oil supplements to keep your fingernails and toenails pretty and healthy. Besides this, a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water are just a few of the simple ways to keep them strong and healthy.
Home Remedies for Healthy Nails
- Aromatherapy help strengthen nails. Once or twice a week soak nails for 15 minute in warm fragrant essential oils such as Lavender, bay, sandalwood, sesame or soy to keep nails healthy and enhance beauty.
- Soak your hands in a cup of warm milk for five minutes to strengthen nails and soften the skin
- Follow a ten-day programme of dissolving one-teaspoon gelatine in little boiling water. Once cool add the water to fruit juice and have this daily for ten days
- Dipping nails in a cup of warm water mixed with a spoonful of fresh lemon juice lightens the nails and removes stains. A cotton ball dipped in lemon juice can be scrubbed on the nails completed with gentle warm water wash.
- For strong and pretty nails, dip them in warm mustard oil for 15-20 minutes; gently massage the nail area and fingers as this boosts blood circulation
Did You Know…?
- Nails contain 18% water
- Animals’ hooves and horns are made up of keratin
- In humans, nails grow at an average rate of 3 mm (0.12 in) a month
- Nail on the index finger grows faster than the little finger
- Fingernails grow up to four times faster than toenails
- Nails grow faster in the summer than in any other season
- Women’s nails grow more slowly than men’s, except possibly during pregnancy
- Fingernails require three to six months to re grow completely, and toenails require 12 to 18 months
- Contrary to common belief, nails do not grow after death; they give an appearance of making the nails and hair grow due to skin tightening and dehydration.