Your nails are the first and most formidable defense of your fingers and toes against dirt, infections and injuries, however if you don't take care of your toes, infections that get under them are very hard to get rid of. That is why regular care and cleaning is not just a luxury activity to keep your nails "pretty", but is rather a necessary and very important part of your overall hygiene.
In addition nails are very sensitive to changes in nutrition, as well as other issues in the environment, and serve as indicators of lack of certain vitamins in your diet. For this reason it is very important to pay attention to the appearance of your nails and instead of hiding issues in socks and behind nail enamel, take the appropriate action.
Taking regular care of your nails and paying attention to their appearance could help you identify some issues early on and save you a lot of time and effort in dealing with them. Below are some tips that could come in handy in identifying those issues and natural remedies for them. Some issues could serve as indicators to various problems; however they should not be used to reach a definitive conclusion or self-diagnosis. Remember that these changes, especially when combined with other issues or if continuing for a prolonged time, could also signify deeper problems and should be resolved in consultation with a physician.
Though most of the time we focus on the lack of certain nutrients, it is often that the amount of nutrients in your body is not balanced. Below we suggest some natural remedies and changes in diet that could help with the problem, because getting your nutrition from food produces much better results. If you're already taking vitamins as supplements you might want to review these supplements with your physician to make sure that you're not taking more than you need. Too much of a good thing could also cause just as many issues as not enough and lead to weak, brittle nails.
Contact your physician or a dermatologist if you have a serious problem with your nails and are not sure what to do, or for more information about nail problems.
- When your body lacks zinc the nails might become thin, brittle, start peeling, show poor growth or get ridges and white spots. For a natural remedy incorporate more beans, mushrooms and whole grains into your diet. Other legumes and brewer's yeast are also an excellent source of zinc and could be considered as an addition to the meals.
- Use nail enamels and polish removers sparingly. Polish removers often dry out cuticles and nails, while enamels sometimes cause nails to become yellow. It is a good thing to give your nails time to rest and breath and keep them nail polish free for a while. In addition, to clear up the yellow stains from cigarettes and nail polish you may want clean them with a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide, or twist them inside half lemon. Be careful, since this might sting, especially if the skin around your nails is broken.
- Sometimes nail products, such as polishes, hardeners, etc. could also cause an allergic reaction with symptoms that could appear not only as rashes on fingers, but also around the eyes, face and/or neck if those areas come in contact with nails covered in nail polish. To stop the reaction use a little bit of calamine lotion on the affected area, use an antihistamine tablet to suppress the inflammation, remove the nail product and consult a physician.
- When your body needs more of a vitamin known as B7, H or biotin, nails often become brittle. Eating more strawberries, bananas, grapefruit and watermelon could help with this problem.
- Very important to note during your nail inspection are any signs of nail infections, identified by pain, redness and even pus. Infections could be caused by too much moisture, especially if it is allowed to be trapped under the nail polish. When grooming your nails make sure they are clean and dry before applying any polish and/or hardeners, and do not paint over the cuticles. Nail infection might affect other parts of your body and take a while to clear up. Seek the help of a physician, the sooner it is treated, the better.
- A lack of iron as well as vitamin A is sometimes indicated by "fluted" or spoon shaped nails. To increase the intake of these nutrients add more greens, carrots, pumpkins, melons and sprouts to your diet. Incorporating small amounts of liver and red meats will increase the intake of iron.
- In addition lack of iron could also produce very brittle nails, and as stated above increasing the amount of greens, carrots and small amounts of red meat could serve as a remedy.
- Never, ever use your nails as tools. Nails are not meant to open up cans, dig or pry things open. Though they appear tough, they are fragile. If you've cracked or otherwise damaged your nails in such a way, give them time to heal and grow out.
- Lack of folic acid and vitamin C is sometimes responsible for red, painful, inflamed hangnails. To add more folic acid incorporate more foods like bran, lentil, barley, legumes and mushrooms into your diet. To boost the amounts of vitamin C add more citrus, like oranges and mandarins, guava, as well as green vegetables to your daily food intake.
- Easily bendable and peeling nails could also be the results of over buffing, chipping off of nail polish and artificial nails. To prevent this problem buff and file nails sparingly, never chip off the nail polish, removing it with gentle polish remover would cause a lot less damage.
- Artificial nails cause damage and even destroy layers of your nails just by the nature of their application, and this damage takes a very long time to repair. Especially so, if you try to remove them on your own by peeling or yanking. It is better not to use artificial nails, but if you must apply them, take the time to let a professional soak them off, to cause less damage to the nails.
- Another deficiency in nutrition, lack of vitamin B, often shows up as fragile nails with horizontal or vertical ridges. It could be remedied with adding carrots, walnuts, melons, brown rice and spinach to your meals.
- To remedy split and/or sore cuticles, which could be cause by dryness, biting, and too much cuticle cutting use a good moisturizing, nourishing cream regularly to massage the nails well, push the cuticle back very gently and clean off any old, dry skin, but very carefully so that not to cut off the live skin.
- Nails that are cut too short and are not cut at the corners sometimes curve at the corners and grow into the skin, causing pain, inflammation, swelling and sometimes infections. Inflammation should be treated with an antibiotic ointment, while nails should be very carefully cut and removed from the skin. To decrease additional damage that could be cause by the removal of ingrown toenails it is better to let a professional do this. If the fingers and toenails appear to have pus and infection, consult your physician.
- Sometimes it is stress and sometimes it is a habit, but you must remember not to bite or chew your nails.
- To protect nails from unnecessary damage from hot water and chemicals, use rubber gloves when cleaning and doing work around the house and keep hands out of hot water and prolonged exposure to water in general.
- In a lot of cases, dryness of the skin and nails could be remedied by moisturizing with a good nourishing cream or lotion regularly applied to the skin and nails. In addition, including eggs, whole grains, apples, grapes, cucumbers, onions, salmon, nuts and foods rich in fatty acids to your diet will keep nails strong, shiny and pliable.
Remember, your nails reflect the overall health of your body, so eating well, and taking care of your whole body will be mirrored in the appearance and health of your nails as well.