Part of a neat appearance, well-manicured, elegant nails can make our hands look better but they can also be a clue of our overall well-being, so they imply a constant, healthy care regimen.
But first we need to look closely at our nails and learn how to read if they are healthy or if they are underlining other potential problems.
How do healthy nails look?
They are smooth, consistent in colour, strong, they grow fast and are not braking. If you have such nails, then there’s no reason to look for associated health problems.
On the other hand, if your nails have spots, white lines, splits or ridges, you might need to improve your nails care routine. Other conditions like changes in colour (red or bright lines, completely white, yellow or blue), in shape (concave shape) or the fact that they are easily to pull away from the nail bed, occur when you have a disease and we recommend you to talk to a doctor.
In some cases, changes in your nails may happen if you lack specific vitamins and minerals in your body, this is why nutrition (but not only) is very important to keep your nails healthy. Here are the most important tips to grow healthier and stronger nails:
- A well-balanced diet
Provide your body enough essential nutrients such as proteins from lean meat, fish, nuts, eggs, soy, legumes and low-fat diaries, or products that contain vitamins and minerals like Vitamin B12, calcium, selenium, iron, chromium and biotin and you will help your nails grow healthy and strong.
Making healthy choices is important for overall health, but also to attain beautiful nails.
- Supplement your diet
Sometimes we need to supplement our diet with multi-vitamins to strengthen our nails, to increase their thickness and prevent breaking and splitting. Biotin for example has a significant impact on nails’ health, promoting their growth. Silicone and MSM are another two important nutrients associated with nails’ health. Vitamin E and iron will also help your nails remain strong and clear. Improving your daily regimen with protein-rich supplements that contain these combinations of nutrients can help your nails’ health. But let’s see together which are the top vitamins and nutrients that support the growth, formation and strength of your nails.
Biotin is a B-complex vitamin that contains vitamin B7, coenzyme R and vitamin H. Aiding the metabolism of protein building amino acids that are so important for nails growth, biotin strengthen brittle nails and improve their health. Biotin can be found in organ meats, egg yolk, salmon, avocado, sweet potato, seeds, nuts, dairy products or cauliflower.
- Other B Vitamins
Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B9 are extremely important for the development of red blood cell formations, having also a role in iron absorption and oxygen transportation to nails. The lack of these vitamins in your body will result in discoloration of your nails. Vitamin B9 (folate) can be found mostly in green vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), seeds, avocado and citrus fruits. Vitamin B12 can be found in meat, eggs, dairy and fish.
Without iron that is the center of your red blood cells, oxygen cannot be carried to your cells, including your nails. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia and affect the shape and appearance of your nails. Adding animal foods into your diet (like beef, fish, eggs, chicken) or foods rich in Vitamin C (like spinach, beans, seeds, oranges, strawberries), will improve its absorption and fortify your nails.
Very important for protein synthesis, magnesium is required for nails’ growth. A magnesium deficiency will cause vertical ridges in your nails so, make sure you will add whole grains, green leafy vegetables, almonds, cashes, peanuts and edamame to your diet, to encourage new nails formation and their health.
Keratin is the main structural protein of nails so, eating more proteins like poultry, meat, fish, eggs, soy, legumes and whole grains will boost the keratin production, keeping your nails strong and resilient.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are responsible to lubricate and moisturize your nails, giving them that shiny appearance. They not only nourish them, promoting the health of your nail plate but also reduce its inflammation. Eat more fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel or add more walnuts, soy, eggs, chia seeds and flaxseeds in your daily meals and prevent dry, brittle nails.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C, essential for the production of collagen, the protein that gives strength to lots of tissues like hair, skin and nails, is a nutrient that cannot be produced by the body alone. Stimulate the collagen production, adding more citrus fruits, bell peppers, green vegetables, tomatoes and other great sources of Vitamin C in your diet. It will provide strength and integrity to your nails.
Required for the growth and division of cells, zinc intake will contribute to the healthy growth of your nails. Inadequate zinc intake can lead to the degeneration of your nail plate, causing the appearance of white spots on your nails. A nutrient rich diet with animal proteins will help you achieve strong, shiny, healthy nails.
Bottom line, consuming a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients through food contributes to growing and maintaining healthy nails, so, if you want strong, shiny nails, be sure to include a fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts in your diet, proteins and omega-3 fatty acids.
Or if you can’t keep up with the modern lifestyle fast pace and make time for healthy meals, choose a supplement that has it all, like Youth Fountain from ALLKME.
Packed with lots of superfoods rich in Vitamin C, this vegan formula will help your body produce more collagen, based on your unique genetics, promoting stronger and healthier hair, nails, bones, skin and ligaments.
- Drink plenty of water
Healthy nails need hydration. Cold weather, normal aging and exposure to chemical products or solvents will dry your nails and make them prone to breakage. Keep your nails strong and youthful drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day. Hydration is as important for our nails as it is for our hair and skin. Preventing nails dehydration will strengthen them and make them less susceptible to damage.
- Moisturise the nail bed and the cuticle
You can also keep your nails hydrated and moisturised throughout the day, using hand cream and cuticle oil every time after you wash your hands. That will soften your cuticles and prevent hangnails, chipping, cracking and splitting due to lack of moisture.
- Don't cut or manipulate cuticles
The first rule of grooming your nails is to leave your cuticles alone. Don’t cut them, don’t push them aggressively or trim them because they are there to fight fungus and bacteria so, you might get a nasty infection that can even harm the nail bed if you damage them.
Acting like a natural protective barrier, your cuticles will not leave the nail bed open to infection. If you push them back or remove the cuticle, the seal of protection will break and you might become vulnerable to infections.
Leave your cuticles alone or push them gently with a wooden tool immediately after the shower if you want to, giving them a massage with a creamy lotion and we promise: your nails will thank you.
- Limit professional manicures
We know that nothing compares with the pampering feeling you get when you indulge yourself with a manicure. Unfortunately, by doing that you will expose your nails to chemical ingredients, not to the risk of nail bed infections will increase if the manicure tools are not sterilized.
If on the other hand, you decide to take care of your manicure by yourself, make sure you always keep your tools clean, rubbing the metal ones with alcohol after washing them, cleaning your brushes and regularly replacing the disposable ones. Keep your nails infection-free taking care of your tools.
- Don't peel off old nail polish
That old chipped nail polish can be quite annoying but if you’re picking it away, you can damage your nail, aggravating the nail bed. Your nails are delicate and if you scrub them roughly you can expose them to all kinds of infections.
So, don’t use metal nails tools, digging under the nail bed, don’t separate your nail from the skin and don’t peel off old polish. Better, apply thin coats of polish and let it dry in between so your nail polish will last more.
- Avoid acetone-based polish removers
Especially if you have brittle nails, acetone will strip your nails and enhance their bad condition so, avoid using polish removers based on acetone in this case.
- Don't overdo it with the hand sanitizer
We all know it is very important to keep your nails and cuticles dirt-free but be careful when using hand sanitizer and try to avoid the nails and cuticles. We know it’s a good germ-fighting solution but it can really dry out your hands and nails.
Limit contact with harsh cleaning chemicals as much as possible or moisturize after if doing this frequently is mandatory.
- Wear dish gloves
Even if you have healthy, strong nails, using hot water and detergents to wash your dishes can weaken your nails, drying them out.
Use protective gloves for your nails and skin while scrubbing to avoid snagging, breaking nails or dry, scaly skin. Detergents can strip the oils from your nails, leaving them dry so, using rubber gloves to protect them from the soapy water will give your nails “a break”. Also, consider using gloves when it’s cold and windy outside, moisturising your hands and nails them all the time.
- Keep your nails trimmed
Considering the natural look is trendy now, trim your nails regularly smoothing out their edges to avoid breakage and snagging. Trimming nails is as important as trimming your hair. Maintain them healthy buffing their surface, especially if you get ridges often, clip them every two weeks and adjust them. Value their health more than their length.
- Choose nail tips over full extensions
Nail extensions can cause fungal and bacterial infections and that leads to permanent damage. But if you really want to get nail extensions, at least choose just the tips. The covered area is smaller so the damage will be smaller. Be aware of the fact the use of liquid acrylic nail is banned in a lot of states.
- Take infections seriously
As soon as you see a sign of infection like redness, irritated skin, swelling or pain around the nail bed, get medical attention because these are the signs of a fungal infection. Your nails are at risk and they require a specific antifungal treatment.
- Watch your nails for signs of health problems
Lots of the factors we discussed above, such as harsh cleaning chemicals, exposure to different nail products can physically abuse your nails. But there are situations when the nails condition reflect a bigger health problem. Here’s what dermatologists say about the earliest signs of different diseases that can be detected in the nails.
- White nails -- liver condition
- Half pink/half white nails -- kidney disease
- Yellow and thick nails with slowed growth rate -- lung disease
- Pale nail beds -- anemia
- Yellow nails with a blush at the base – diabetes
If you are concerned you might be in these situations, talk to your doctor immediately.
- Remember toenails count, too!
Everything we talked about your fingernails can apply to your toenails as well. As a matter of fact, the risk of infections is bigger for your toenails, since they are more often inside the shoes. They also have an increased risk of ingrown toenails.
Incorporate all these tips in your regular cleaning and grooming nails’ routine and monitor their health on a regular basis, since they are also a very good reflection of your overall well-being.