Healthy nails are an essential part of a well-manicured and polished appearance. Your fingernails are composed of layers of the protein keratin and they grow from the area under the cuticle. Healthy fingernails should appear uniform in color and without discoloration or spotting. The surfaces should be smooth. As we age, some people develop vertical ridges that extend from the cuticle to the nail tip. These small ridges are harmless. Injury to a fingernail can result in a white line or spot, but these typically grow out in time.
Unhealthy nails can indicate underlying health conditions
People can develop changes in the nail that may result from a nail condition or may be a sign of an underlying illness. If your have had changes in the color of your nails, including a dark streak or spot; changes in the shape; changes in thickness; separation of the nail from the nail bed; bleeding, swelling, or pain you should contact a dermatologist for an evaluation. You could have a nail fungus or infection, or your nail change could be a sign of a more serious illness.
Oncholysis may be the result of a local infection
Oncholysis is a condition in which the fingernails become loose and separate from the nail bed. The nail becomes opaque and discolored. This can occur with infection or as a result of a commercial nail hardener or an adhesive, but may also be caused by conditions like psoriasis and thyroid disease.
Tips for healthy nails
You can maintain healthy and attractive nails by incorporating a few simple practices into your routine. Keep your fingernails clean and dry to prevent bacteria from growing beneath the nail. Prolonged contact with water can also cause the nail to split. It’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves lined with cotton when washing the dishes or cleaning with harsh chemicals. When you trim your nails, use sharp manicure scissors or clippers and trim straight across. You can then round the nail tips gently with a smooth and fine nail file. You should rub your hand moisturizer into your fingernails and cuticles to provide the moisture that will protect nails from breaking and improve the appearance of cuticles.
One of the most important things to avoid is cutting or pushing back your cuticles, which provide a natural barrier to fungus and bacteria. After this barrier is damaged, infection can result and may spread to the nail bed, causing permanent damage. Cutting cuticles can often result in a red and irritated appearance. Nail hardeners may also be damaging. In fact, a recent study showed that women who get frequent manicures often suffer from dry brittle nails and may develop chronic nail bed infections. The harsh chemicals used in many manicure salons are damaging. Acetone-based polish removers strips the nails and causes them to become brittle.
Nail tips and extensions are a common cause of fungal and bacterial infections. If at all possible, avoid artificial nails. Many states have banned a liquid acrylic nail compound known as MMA, which has been associated with significant nail damage and allergic sensitivity. The product has an FDA hazard warning. Since the product is inexpensive and sold through black markets, be aware that a strong unpleasant odor may indicate MMA in the product.