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The ultimate nail care guide

We look at our hands every day, every hour likely. Therefore, knowing how to care for your nails is more important than you might give it credit. There is nothing more gratifying and comforting for your self-esteem than looking down at your hand and seeing buffed and polished nails looking their best. While a nail technician would be ideal, we may want to do some of the work ourselves. Here we offer a guide to caring for your nails and getting that feel-good tingle.

What are nails anyway?

You might think that your fingernails are dead bits of shell-like material that appear by magic as you sleep. The truth is, they are keratin layers, which is similar to the proteins used to create our hair. Like our hair, our nails grow from a cuticle base and is not entirely dead. The nails do receive a blood supply, which helps them grow and why our general well-being can impact the look of our nails so much.

What do unhealthy nails mean?

We all know discoloured and brittle nails are a bad look on our hands. Equally, if the nail changes shape or you experience pitting, we get a sense that something needs to be done. However, the state of our nails is also a good indicator of the state of our health. For instance, vertical ridges are usually an issue of aesthetics, but horizontal ridges indicate poor health. These ridges are known as Beau’s lines and might indicate thyroid diseases, diabetes, acute kidney disease, or other conditions.

Nail discolouration can also suggest health issues. For instance, white, yellow, orange, or green discolouration could be a sign of a fungal infection, common in both fingers and toes. Black or red nails are a sign of a bruise caused by impact. However, a slowly yellowing fingernail may be a sign of lung disease. If you are concerned, you should see your doctor.

Experiencing minor white marks on your nails is quite common. It is a myth that this is a Vitamin E deficiency and is actually caused by minor traumas to the nail surface as the nail grows. The nail replaces itself every six months or so, and any new growth is susceptible to leukonychia.

How do I keep my nails healthy?

Now you know what unhealthy nails look like, it is essential to consider how to keep them looking their best. Ideally, your nails should be mauve or pink, strong and not easily broken, with intact cuticles and no horizontal ridges. To keep them this way, you need to maintain your physical health by eating well and exercising often.

The best diet for your nails is rich in Omega 6 and 9 fatty acids and in Vitamin A. What this entails eating plenty of fruit, lean protein, salmon, and oily fish. You should eat plenty of leafy greens, beans and legumes, as well we whole grains, nuts, and eggs. You might want to supplement this with Biotin, a B Vitamin, Vitamin A, silica, and iron. All these supplements will give a boost to your everyday healthy diet.

You will need to stop biting your nails if this is a habit you have formed. If you want healthy nails, you cannot be gnawing at them in times of stress. The best way to overcome it is to find the root cause. What triggers the anxiety that causes the behaviour? When you are likely to experience this trigger, replace nail-biting with a stress ball or other stress-relieving device.

You can also consider strengthening your nails by applying oil regularly. While there are plenty of specialist oils on the market, there is nothing better than Olive Oil for your nails. Rubbing it into your nails once a week or so will harden them nicely. The only real reason to buy an expensive product is for the scent provided. You might find the smell of oil on your fingers a little overwhelming.

And finally, what about maintenance?

Maintaining your nails takes the right equipment. You need a sound file and buffer, some scissors or clippers, a nail polish remover and moisturising cream, and a cuticle pusher. Shaping your nails should be done with the file or the buffer and not the scissors, as it is hard to get the shape you desire by cutting away nail. Remember, nail maintenance is often about using the right tool for the right job.