Look closely at your nails. Are they strong and have a healthy appearance? Or do you notice that there are grooves, crevices or areas that have unusual color or shape? Many unwanted nail conditions can be avoided with proper care. Others may indicate an undiagnosed condition that needs attention.
Nails: what is normal and what is not
Nails, which are composed of laminated layers of a protein called “keratin,” grow from the base of the nail under the cuticle. Healthy nails are smooth, without marks or grooves. They have a uniform color and consistency, without stains or discoloration.
Occasionally, harmless vertical streaks form, which extends from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Vertical stretch marks are usually more prominent with age. White lines or spots may also form due to injuries, but eventually, disappear when the nail grows. Related: what causes ridges in fingernails
However, not all nail conditions are normal. Consult the doctor or dermatologist if you notice the following:
- Color changes in the nail, such as discoloration of the entire nail or a dark line under it
- Changes in the shape of the nail, such as curved nails
- Thinning or thickening of the nails
- Separation of the nail from the surrounding skin
- Bleeding around the nails
- Swelling or pain around the nails
- Lack of nail growth
Nail care: what you should do
To keep the nails looking the best:
- Keep nails dry and clean. This prevents the growth of bacteria under the nails. Repeated or prolonged contact with water can contribute to nail splitting. Use rubber gloves with cotton inside to wash dishes, clean or use strong chemicals.
- Practice proper nail hygiene. Use sharp manicure scissors or pliers. Cut the nails straight and round the tips forming a smooth curve.
- Use moisturizer. When using hand lotion, put on lotion on nails and cuticles too.
- Apply a protective layer. Applying a nail strengthener could help strengthen the nails.
- Ask the doctor about biotin. Some research suggests that biotin, a nutritional supplement, may help strengthen weak or brittle nails.
Nail care: what not to do
To prevent nail damage, do not do the following:
- Do not bite your nails or run your cuticles. These habits can damage the nail bed. Even a minor cut along the nail can allow bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection.
- Do not take off your stepparents. It is possible for you to tear live tissue along with the stepfather. Instead, cut the stepparents carefully.
- Do not use strong nail care products. Limit the use of nail polish remover. When using nail polish remover, choose a formula without acetone.
- Do not ignore the problems. If you have a nail problem that does not go away on its own or that is related to other signs and symptoms, consult your doctor or dermatologist for evaluation.