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It’s more common than you might think.
The thing about talking about health, of the nail variety and otherwise, is that sometimes we have to discuss matters that might not be our favorites. But they’re important and we should discuss them without shame or embarrassment.
That’s very true when it comes to onychomycosis, which is more commonly known as nail fungus. As a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Dana Stern knows that treating nail fungus is a huge concern for her patients and always a hot topic of conversation among professional nail technicians because they are often the ones on the front line.
Nail fungus is actually one of the most commonly treated nail issues in this country, making up half of all nail disorders. 35 million people in the US are affected and the prevalence is especially high amongst the elderly and diabetic populations. Interestingly only 6.3 million people are actually diagnosed and of those, only 2.5 million end up being treated. We hope to see that change. Another issue is that onychomycosis is also very commonly misdiagnosed. In fact, only 50% of abnormal, thick, discolored toenails are due to fungus! This is why it is important to have an accurate diagnosis and a clear understanding of when it is appropriate to seek medical attention.
The medical term “onychomycosis” refers to fungal nail infections. Nail fungus can be caused by dermatophytes such as Trichophyton rubrum (the leading cause of nail fungus in the U.S.), yeast, or non-dermatophyte molds.
Why is it that some people get nail fungus and others seem immune when we are, in reality, all exposed? There are many factors that play into whether you are susceptible to a fungal nail infection. The most common risk factors include: increasing age, diabetes, suppressed immunity, excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), poor circulation. and nail dystrophy (irregular growing nails). In addition, we believe that there is genetic susceptibility as well. Nail fungus can also be acquired from fungal infections at other areas of the body. For example, athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) can spread, causing toenail fungus. This is especially true if the nail is damaged or lifted. Most toenail fungus begins in the skin near the nail, as opposed to the actual hard nail. Athlete’s foot is essentially a fungal reservoir that has the potential to take up residence in the nail.
Although the appearance of nail fungus can vary, generally the nail appears yellow, brown, or white, thickened, and crumbly. There is often significant debris under the nail and the surrounding nail folds and cuticle area can be redder than normal.
Fungal infections of the nail can be challenging to treat. They are quite persistent and even when effectively treated, they can have high recurrence rates and not everyone responds to a single treatment. This may make you wonder if it’s even worth it to treat them and the answer is a resounding YES and here’s why.
Nail fungus can spread to other areas of the body such as the hands, legs, and back. In addition, those who take medications that weaken the immune system—like steroids or chemotherapy—are particularly susceptible. While most healthy adults who ignore nail fungus will probably not have any immediate issues, over time, fungal infection can cause the nails to become thickened, brittle, discolored and even painful. Additionally, the longer one waits to treat nail fungus, the harder it becomes to treat it.
And don’t forget that nail fungus can be contagious. In a nail salon setting, a client with fungus can spread it to other clients if proper disinfection precautions are not followed. This becomes especially relevant when porous materials such as files and toe separators are reused. Proper disinfection between clients is also especially relevant for pedicure foot baths, so make sure your salon is making the space safe for you.
While a proper diagnosis is key, it can be tricky, even for medical professionals. The nail needs to be tested either by looking for hyphae under a microscope or by being sent to a lab for special staining or even newer techniques such as PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) where the DNA of the organism can be identified.
As far as treatments go, there is typically a choice between topical or oral options. Oral agents, like Terbinafine, tend to have more potential side effects even though these drugs have been on the market for a long time and are generally well tolerated and safe when used with the appropriate patient. We now have some newer topical FDA-approved antifungal therapy prescriptions including Efinaconazole and Tavaborole. Both of these options are more effective than over-the-counter and naturopathic methods and are generally safe with very minimal side effects.
If you search for a treatment for toenail fungus online, you will come across a ton of natural and alternative approaches. Typically, Dr. Dana recommends conventional FDA-approved therapies, as we have more studies and data for these treatments. However, we can’t ignore the costs of topical antifungal prescriptions which can be cost prohibitive and oftentimes are not covered by insurance. So alternative approaches can be a better option than no treatment at all. If you do decide to go the natural or alternative treatment route, see a dermatologist if the treatment is not working after four months for toenails and two months for fingernails.
What happens to your nail health over time—and how to improve it.
While most of us are extremely familiar with skin and hair care regimens designed to help us maintain a youthful appearance, when it comes to nails, aging is not typically a regular part of the conversation. But your nails do in fact age, too, and it’s important to understand what’s going on with your nail health—just as much as every other part of your body and mind.
Genetics, nutritional deficiencies, environmental influences, and general wear and tear can cause nails to undergo physiological changes over time. The good news is that most of these changes can be easily addressed—it’s mostly a matter of identifying concerning nail signs and knowing how to spot the signs of aging nails.
What should you be on the lookout for—and how can you treat nail symptoms?
As we age, the area where the nail begins (the matrix) slowly starts to become thinner, resulting in vertical depressions in the nail called onychorrhexis. There are many age-related factors that can contribute to ridging, including compromised circulation or less efficient blood flow to our extremities. For some, these ridges are barely noticeable, but others may see some significant markings.
The safest and most effective way to smooth ridges is with a three-way buffer, like the Priming Wand that’s included in the Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System. It’s designed to gently buff surface abnormalities, such as ridges, resulting in a more even nail plate. Caution when choosing a buffer, as many are designed for acrylic nails and can be too abrasive for natural nails. If ridging is severe or presents horizontally, you should talk to your doctor.
For many of us, nails will become more brittle with age. This can be the result of years of exposure to water and chemicals, frequent use of nail polish remover, and genetics. Taking regular care of the nails is the best way to treat these type of age-related nail conditions.
Using our Nail Renewal System weekly is one of the most effective ways to treat brittle, aging nails. The 3-step treatment includes glycolic acid to exfoliate and remove surface damage, a natural nail strengthener to reinforce delicate nail cells, and plant extracts for deep hydration and antioxidant protection.
Unfortunately, our nails naturally lose their luster with age. Using a high-shine topcoat is a quick fix, but in order to truly restore their natural shine, you need to treat the nails. Exfoliating surface damage is the only way to repair the nail and restore its youthful glow. Step 1 in the Nail Renewal System uses glycolic acid to exfoliate the nail plate and instantly boost natural shine.
Slow Nail Growth
According to various studies, age related changes begin to occur in our nails after the age of 40. In fact, nail changes such as a slower nail growth rates tend to happen around this age. When our nails don’t grow out as quickly, the effects of environmental exposure can show up more significantly in the overall appearance of the nails, as well as affecting their strength. Keeping the cuticle intact and hydrated will help you optimize nail growth because the cuticle overlies the nail matrix, the anatomical structure that becomes the nail plate.
Nail Separation from the Nail Bed
Nail separation, referred to as onycholysis, occurs when our nails don’t firmly adhere to the nail beds. That means that even the slightest trauma, like overly vigorous cleaning under the nail with an orange stick, can result in the nail lifting off the nail bed. It’s best to see your doctor if you experience this type of change in your nails.
Easy tips for your tips
There are many reasons you might opt to try some artificial nails, of the press-on or acrylic variety. Perhaps you just want to play around with your aesthetic or you have trouble growing your actual nails to the length you’d like. But one thing is for sure, the health of your natural nails underneath is of utmost importance.
The wear and tear that can happen to your nails from press on nails is essentially damaged superficial nail cells—or onychocytes—that have separated from their tidy protective structure. These damaged patches are called keratin granulations. While you are enjoying your new look, your adhesive-drenched onychocytes are becoming dry and dehydrated. When the glue is removed, some of these damaged nail cells are removed along with it, while other damaged, dehydrated nail cells remain at the nail surface. This process will result in uneven, discolored. and peeling nails and is especially common, after a long successful press on application.
Dr. Dana recommends applying a protective coat to the nail prior to applying the nail glue. This can be a base coat or another polish. Polish can absolutely be protective and it is generally the removal process that leads to the dehydration and potential damage.
Any barrier that sits between the nail plate and the adhesive is going to provide some protection to the nail plate. FYI, the nail bed is the soft tissue beneath the hard nail plate, so when we talk about nail damage from nail adhesives/glue, we are referring to damage to the nail plate aka “the nail” and not the nail bed itself. This is also why when nails are polished with basic polish, a good quality base coat will also offer some protection to the underlying nail.
Many have asked us if a glitter polish is even more helpful in this scenario. Glitter nail polish is particularly adhesive and difficult to remove, so while it may offer a somewhat stronger barrier of protection than a typical clear or base coat, the amount of acetone needed in the nail polish remover might actually negate the protective effects in the end, as acetone is extremely dehydrating to the nail plate, cuticle and surrounding skin. In general, when it comes to nail beautification, everything is a trade off!
Don’t overdo it on the adhesive—a little goes a long way! You will generally not need more than the size of a small glass bead. You might also want to consider using a glue or adhesive tab, which may last for a shorter period of time but cause less damage. These rubbery gel double-sided adhesives tend to not work nearly as well as glue, but you will avoid the risks of allergy because there is no liquid glue to seep into the skin. These adhesives usually don’t last more than a few days, but they are great for a weekend look.
Yes, there is a risk that you could be allergic to nail glue and if you are, the damage could be long term and irreversible.
Now, let’s get into why this might happen. Press-on nails stick to the nail plate with either an acrylate-based glue or acrylate-based nail tab. With nail stickers, the acrylate is embedded in the underside of the product and, theoretically, only comes into contact with the nail and not the surrounding skin. With press-ons, the glue can more easily seep outside of the perimeter of the nail and make contact with the cuticle and surrounding skin.
So, why is this a big deal? Acrylates are potentially problematic in that they can cause allergic reactions if they come into contact with the skin. These reactions are relatively uncommon amongst nail customers of professional salons because most enhancements are applied by a professional, licensed nail technician who is very aware of these potential reactions. However, with the current uptick in do-it-yourself manis, we are likely to be seeing more of these reactions as the typical at-home manicurist is not necessarily aware of these concerns.
There are two types of potential reactions you should look out for. The first is an irritant contact dermatitis, which is a reaction that occurs immediately upon exposure. That could mean a burning or pain and some inflammation, redness, and possibly even blistering and lifting of the nail bed. If you feel a burning sensation, you should immediately remove the press-on with hot, soapy water and nail and cuticle oil. Do not try to reapply the nail! The other possible reaction is a delayed hypersensitivity which might occur after repeated exposure. Over time a person’s immune system learns to recognize and react to that particular chemical, so even the smallest drop can set off a full inflammatory reaction. Certain people are more prone to this, like those with eczema, who tend to have a compromised skin barrier already.
Follow these simple steps to help mitigate damage to your nails.
We all love a good pedicure, but outside of that, how much time are you devoting to caring for your feet and toenails? Probably a lot less than the rest of your self-care routines for your face or your hair or fitness. Translation: Most of us aren’t doing enough.
While regular professional pedicures are essential, feet really must be cared for in between treatments. So where to begin? First, you need to wash them regularly and practice good foot hygiene. We know that sounds obvious, but many people just let the soap suds run down in the shower and hope that will suffice. In reality, feet need to be cleaned especially thoroughly because they are different in ways that make them a unique habitat for supporting microbes, that include odor-causing bacteria. Washing regularly, can support simple health benefits by helping to limit environments for bacterial growth.
Once your feet are clean, there are two essential steps for good foot care.
First is exfoliation—removing dead skin cells and callus from the feet is critical. Calluses occur from friction and are largely due to the biomechanical properties of how our feet make contact within our shoes. Leaving some callus is okay, because if you take off too much skin you may cause bleeding and pain. Exfoliation should never hurt! Callus is best removed mechanically with abrasives, but avoid pumices as they can harbor all sorts of bacteria. If you are going to use pumice, purchase inexpensively and in bulk so that you only use each one a single time. You can also use a foot file with removable grit. If you add an exfoliating scrub with sea salts to this step—perhaps in the bath while soaking—you’ll end up with baby soft feet.
You can also use Epsom Salts as soaks to support healthy blood flow and decrease swelling and inflammation. The effectiveness of sea salt soaks is more difficult to quantify as these products vary tremendously in their compositions.
After you exfoliate, step two is proper hydration and callus prevention. We suggest using a cream that contains urea which acts as a very efficient dead skin remover—and helps prevent new callus from forming. Urea creams were once only available by prescription, but there are now many over the counter options. You should also apply an everyday moisturizer which helps with prevention and combats dry skin. Look for one containing shea which can help seal in moisture. We also love the calming benefits of lavender oil and hyaluronic acid, which can mimic the skin’s natural lipid barrier and offer protection.
Once your feet are nice and soft, turn your attention to your toenails. The best way to groom your toenail cuticles is to give your feet that good soak we talked about earlier and then push the softened cuticles back with an orange stick or cuticle pusher. Any excess hangnail can be snipped with a sterile, sharp cuticle nipper. Remember the cuticle is the nail’s natural protective seal. It’s like the grout in your shower between your tiles. Without it, imagine what would grow if water seeped in between! When it comes to trimming the toenails, cut straight across—as opposed to on a curve—as this will prevent embedding or ingrowns.
As you begin to pay more attention to your feet and notice you are experiencing more foot pain, excessive callus, or bruises on your toenails, it is very possible that your shoes are not fitting properly. Many adults don’t realize that our feet change too, even your shoe size. At one point in time you may have been a size 8, but may be an 8.5 or even 9 now. You might need to be re-measured. And generally speaking, shoes with a somewhat wide toe box are ideal. “Reasonable” shoes do not have pointy toes, nor do they have super high heels—and we all need proper arch support.
Follow these simple steps to keep your feet soft and reap all health benefits of an excellent foot care regimen.
There is so much information being thrown at us all day every day, but how do we filter through the noise and know what is real and what is fake news when it comes to nails? Look no further than The Dr. Dana Blog, On the Nail, where we share expert content about nail health, unique nail beauty tips, and the most up-to-date nail health and science news!
Nail Care Don’t: When it comes to filing your nails, not all files are created equal. Did you know that common cardboard emery boards create microscopic tears in the nail surface that lead to fissures and peeling? The fissures can also cause nail polish to prematurely chip, too—not ideal!
Nail Care Do: Use a glass nail file instead of an emery board nail file. Glass files have a gentle glass face that creates a clean perfect edge at the nail edge every time. With this gentle tool, you can file in any direction you please. A huge perk? Your nails will peel less and nail polish will go on smoother and last longer. Sign me up!
If you notice that your nails are starting to look damaged or you have observed show white patches, peeling, or splitting, it may be time to take a nail polish holiday.
Nail Care Don’t: The worst thing you can do for nail health is to camouflage the damage. When you see that your nails look unhealthy, your innate response may be to cover them up—but Dr. Dana advises against this ….because your nails are a window into health and disease. Chronic camouflage of the nail may hide a health issue that needs to be addressed.
Nail Care Do: It is time to take a break from color and all that dehydrating polish remover. Pull back the polish reins and treat your nails with some extra TLC. Look for nail products that are rich in phospholipids—like sunflower oil—and ones that contain exfoliating keratolytics. This will remove nail surface damage and allow for the more effective absorption of hydrating ingredients.
Please pay attention to product ingredients! Many nail products that tout themselves as nail treatments or hardeners contain formaldehyde or formalin, which can be very damaging to the nail. Formaldehyde will initially harden the nail; however, with time, the nail will become paradoxically brittle and is at risk for separation of the nail from the bed (onycholysis).
Nail Care Don’t: Avoid products that contain formaldehyde. This common nail strengthening ingredient, can also cause severe allergic reactions at the surrounding nail folds, where the skin can become irritated, swollen, and painful.
If the nail strengthener you are considering requires removal, then it is by definition a polish and not a nail treatment.
Nail Care Do: There are many nail products out there that are both effective and safe for your health. Look for products that contain natural ingredients. Nail products that are formulated by experts and backed by science are a no-brainer. Your health—and nails!—will thank you.
Nail Care Don’t: Avoid cutting or removing the cuticle. The cuticle is the nail’s natural protective seal. It is like the grout in between the tiles in your shower because it prevents water from entering the nail unit. This amazing membranous structure is the key to a healthy nail.
Nail Care Do: Instead of trimming or chemical removal, gently push back the cuticle after a warm shower or bath. Keep cuticles hydrated with oils or ointments that are rich in essential oils. Creams don’t absorb into the cuticle as well.
Nail Care Don’t: For those heading to the salon, be sure that single-use products such as toe separators, files, and abrasives are used once and disposed of. These porous items can harbor and transmit bacteria and fungus, contributing to fungal infection! Do not let technicians reuse a product on you that you did not see them either disinfect or take out from a new, sterilized package.
Nail Care Do: As for the clipper you use at home, do make sure the blade is sharp—a dull blade will cause tears and splits in the nail plate. If you have a tendency to develop ingrown toenails, cut the toenails straight across as opposed to on a curve to prevent embedding.
And let’s please set the record straight on this… Nails don’t breathe! Rather, nails derive their oxygen and nutrients from good, healthy blood flow. What does that mean? Healthy circulation to the hands and feet will optimize nail health and beauty. Think cardio, brisk walks and anything that gets your heart rate up. Hand and foot massage is also a great way to improve blood flow to the fingers and toes.
Spring is finally here and soon enough we will be trading our heavy winter boots for sandals and paying more attention to our toenails. Have you ever wondered why after a long winter of Christmas cranberry toenails, your nails can take on a yellow hue?
While yellow polish can be fun and vibrant, if your toenails are giving off a lemony vibe and there’s no polish on them, it’s time to determine if the issue is cosmetic or suggestive of something possibly more serious.
One of the most common causes of yellow fingernails and toenails is from secondary staining from nail polish. Because the porosity of the nail is variable, some people just inherently have more porous nails that are more prone to pigment absorption and thus secondary yellowing.
Another factor is the dye content of the polish. Not all polish dyes are alike. Generally, the darker the color, the more the pigment has an opportunity to migrate and leach into the nail plate to cause yellowing.
While darker colors tend to be to blame more often, this phenomenon can also occur with lighter colors.
Another common cause of polish induced nail yellowing is from polish remover. Polish remover dissolves polish which can result in the migration of pigments that then can leach into the nail plate and result in a yellow discoloration of the nails.
Theoretically the longer the soak, the more leaching that will potentially occur so things like soak off gels that require a good 10 minute soak can be detrimental.
How do we distinguish polish induced yellowing from other causes of nail yellowing? When the cause is purely from polish, the nail will generally be healthy looking and intact but have a yellow hue throughout.
The surface will be smooth and a normal thickness as opposed to fungal nails where there is thickening or subungual (under the nail) crumbling. And the cuticle will have a healthy, intact barrier. Importantly, there will be a history of prior polish application.
Polish induced nail yellowing is a cosmetic issue and the good news is that there are several options for treatment. The first is to take a nail polish holiday and to avoid polish application for 2-4 weeks.
For those who want a treatment solution, severe stains can be lightened by using a dilution of Hydrogen Peroxide.
At home remedy:
Alternatively, you can use a whitening toothpaste as these are formulated with Hydrogen Peroxide.
To prevent polished induced staining it is important to keep the nail healthy. Over filing the surface can theoretically lead to increase pigment leaching into the nail.
Don’t forget to use a good quality base coat prior to polish application. Lastly, try to remove polish quickly. If you need to rub for 10 minutes then the pigments have a better opportunity to leach into the nail.
Other “non-medical” causes of nail yellowing include staining from ingredients such as tobacco, tanning products or Henna. In these cases a thorough exposure history will usually uncover the yellowing culprit.
There are several causes of yellow fingernails and toenails that are due to medical conditions namely fungus, onycholysis and yellow nail syndrome.
Nail fungus (onychomycosis) affects approximately 35 million people in the United States and these infections are far more common on the toenails. Toenails can appear thick, yellow, and crumbly.
Proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to be able to achieve resolution. Most toenail fungus starts off as athlete’s foot, and then enters the nail when there is an injury or lifting of the nail. Even overly aggressive pedicures can result in nail lifting and pose a risk.
Speaking of nail lifting, onycholysis, or separation of the nail plate from the underlying nail bed is another potential cause of nail yellowing. This common condition can be observed on both the fingernails and toenails.
When the nail lifts off of the nail bed, the nail will appear as a white to yellow opacity in the area of separation. Although there are many causes of nail separation, the most common include overly aggressive cleaning under the nail, trauma from tight shoes or activities that cause the toe to hit the tip of the shoe, and more rarely, inflammatory conditions such as nail psoriasis.
Treatment will usually include adherence to a strict irritant avoidance regimen where nail polish remover and exposure to household chemicals and water is avoided. Polish removers are strong solvents that will cause irritation to the delicate nail bed tissue when there is an opening under the nail plate.
Additionally, a prescription topical anti-yeast treatment will often be needed and so you will need to seek medical attention from a physician.
Yellow Nail Syndrome is another non-cosmetic cause of nail yellowing. In this more rare condition, the toenails appear thick and have a yellow to green tinge and frequently lack a cuticle as well as lunula (the half moon that is usually visible on the thumb nail and great toenail).
Yellow Nail Syndrome is due to failure of the nail to grow sufficiently and is associated with lymphatic disease as well as lung disease or malignancy. The underlying disorder must be treated but tends to be chronic.
Now that you have a better understanding of what causes yellow nails, you should be better equipped to manage the issue. And just in time for sandal season!
They’re way more common (and damaging) than you think.
We’ve all picked off our nail polish or nibbled on our nails at some point. These actions can be stress and anxiety induced but they can also be a reaction to a lull in activity aka boredom. While some of us are able to stop easily before these behaviors become habit forming, for others the behavior becomes chronic.
If you’ve struggled to stop nail biting, chances are you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that twenty to fifty percent of the population bite their nails.
Thankfully, most nail habits can be treated with behavior modification and if severe, medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. The first step is a matter of knowing how to break the pattern and to divert the behavior to an alternative behavior. Here are four common nail habits with helpful solutions so that you can achieve healthy, beautiful nails.
Picking your nail polish may seem harmless, but it can cause the nail more harm than good. Every time you pick or peel your polish, the top layer of the nail can inadvertently be removed, which can cause surface irregularities and white patches, also known as keratin granulations.
There’s something about chipped nail polish that makes us want to pick at it even more. The best course of action? If you see a chip, immediately remove the polish, and reapply a fresh coat. While it may be easier said than done, taking this extra step can help keep your nails healthy.
If you notice that your polish always chips immediately, it may be that your underlying nail needs more TLC. Just like over-processed, dehydrated hair often needs a good deep conditioner, your nails and cuticle need to be effectively hydrated too. The Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System is a wonderful way to prep nails for color application. It creates a smooth, even, healthy canvas, which helps nail polish adhere longer so you’ll get the most mileage out of your manicure.
Those pesky, tiny pieces of loose skin are tempting to pick, but doing so can cause redness, irritation, or bleeding, and can even lead to an infection. Hangnails are often the result of dry skin or lack of nail maintenance, so prioritizing moisture in your nail care routine is important.
Keeping your cuticles hydrated is the best way to prevent hangnails. Step 3 of the Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System is a convenient way to keep the entire nail continuously moisturized. A weekly manicure is also a great idea as it maintains the nails and surrounding skin.
For many, this habit is a result of boredom or stress and habit cessation can be a difficult thing to do. Before you nibble, keep in mind that you are not only weakening your nails, but you are also exposing your yourself to a hotbed of germs and bacteria.
Dr. Dana recommends keeping a diary for a week and writing down every time you catch yourself biting. Specify where you are exhibiting the behavior (ie at the computer vs. in the car), what you think the trigger is (stress vs boredom for example). The idea is to establish a pattern of behavior so that you can trade the biting for a competing, alternative behavior. A very effective method is to wear a bright colored rubber band around your wrist which can serve as a visual reminder and can be manipulated when there is an urge to bite.
If your nails and cuticles are not too severe, a weekly professional manicure can also help because when you spend time and money maintaining your nails, you are theoretically less inclined to ruin them. This would not be recommended for people with severe cuticle damage.
There are some cases where chronic nail biting can result in nail shape changes such as the development of short, wide nails (known as brachyonychia) and is something that may need to be discussed with your doctor.
We’ve all been there. Once you’ve discovered how useful your nails can be to tighten a loose screw or remove labels, it’s hard to resist the urge to use them as tools.
No matter how strong your nails are or how handy they may be in a pinch, using your nails as tools can lead to breakage, splits and damage to the cuticle.
To protect the health of your nails, take some time to find the proper tool that you need or ask someone with short nails to help you. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of creativity to complete the task at hand, but in the end, it’ll save your manicure!
If you’re still struggling with the aforementioned habits after trying our recommended tips, consider seeking help from your dermatologist. Habits are hard to break, especially habits that have been going on for years. Cognitive behavioral therapists are also a very helpful resource for those who need on going strategies and tips.
There are so many beauty myths out there and it’s easy to believe common beauty “advice” when you’ve heard everyone from your grandmother to your bestie swear by them. There are so many nail myths out there, but you have come to the right place to set the record straight!
Eating gelatin is a common myth that was developed during periods in history when protein-rich food sources were costly for the average person.
Because gelatin is an inexpensive protein source derived from pigs, it was considered a solution for nail health. It is true, however, that nails are composed of protein and therefore it is essential to consume a protein-rich diet for healthy nails. Because western society already consumes adequate amounts of protein whether plant or animal based, protein deficiency is extremely rare and so consuming large quantities of jello? Not necessary!
What comes to mind when you hear this myth? Whenever we picture nails breathing, we think of a nail with two little lungs. The take home is nails do NOT breathe! Rather, nails derive oxygen and nutrients via blood flow. This explains why nails tend to become more brittle with age, as our peripheral circulation weakens.
The best way to improve your overall circulation is with regular cardiovascular activity. Hand massage can also help. Simply massage your favorite cuticle oil into the hand, nail, and surrounding skin throughout the day, and you’ll notice your hands warm up immediately. And you’ll benefit from some self-care too!
You might have heard this from a manicurist, but the truth is that trimming the cuticle will not make it grow more.
You can think of the cuticle as the nail’s natural protective seal. It prevents water from entering the nail unit, and this membranous structure is the key to a healthy nail. It is like the grout in between the tiles in your shower because it prevents water from entering the nail unit.
Instead of trimming the cuticle, gently push back the cuticle after a warm shower or bath. Be sure to keep cuticles hydrated with oils or ointments that are rich in essential oils, as creams don’t absorb as well.
Many people believe that white spots on the nail are due to a calcium deficiency. Remember being told to drink your milk as a child? It might surprise you that calcium is not a major component of nail composition.
While there are many causes for white spots on the nail, the more common type of white spot, referred to as punctate leukonychia, is due to minor trauma to the area of the nail where the nail grows from the matrix.
These spots are extremely common in kids because they have thinner, less protective nails and tend to experience more physical play that can result in minor bangs to the nail. These patches are located within the nail plate and will often go away with the outgrowth of the nail.
This is a major myth! In fact, the most issues Dr. Dana has seen in her practice stem from aggressive cuticle removal. Her mantra is that you can’t have a healthy nail if you don’t have a healthy, intact cuticle.
This protective seal, when weakened or damaged, will allow moisture to enter the nail unit, creating a moist environment with yeast, where the nail is trying to grow. Because the new incoming nail is starting out in an abnormal environment, it will not grow normally, and will appear with flaws on the surface, including white patches and waves. In more severe cases, bacteria can enter the compromised cuticle resulting in an infection that will likely require drainage and antibiotics.
One of the most common causes of white patches on the toenails is from prolonged polish use. When toenail polish is left on for long periods of time and then removed, the top layer of nail cells is often removed along with the polish. As a result, white patches, known as keratin granulations, develop on the nail surface. These pesky patches can be treated effectively with the Dr Dana Nail Renewal System. Keep in mind that if these patches don’t resolve, consultation with a dermatologist or podiatrist is recommended.
While Dr. Dana is a huge advocate of using your own manicure or pedicure tools, you can most certainly get an infection from your own tools if they are not properly sanitized regularly.
Make sure to wash your tools with hot, soapy water after each use and then a soak or wipe down with rubbing alcohol. They should be thoroughly dried before storage in an airtight bag. And don’t forget to replace porous items regularly, as they can store bacteria and mold when wet.
Have you ever looked at your nails and wondered why your nails are brittle? Maybe you’ve tried product after product, but still find that your nails can’t shake their weak and fragile state. Or maybe you’re noticing that they’ve become brittle suddenly, and you aren’t sure what to do next.
There are a few causes that may be able to explain this condition of your nails. Let’s discuss what causes brittle fingernails, and what you can do to achieve the strong, healthy nails you’ve always wanted.
Brittle nails are nails that are ridged, tend to split, break, peel and grow poorly. You can categorize their causes in two ways. The first type are intrinsic causes and include natural factors that are difficult to treat like aging, genetics, certain diseases and medications.
The second kind are extrinsic causes, the external areas where you can step in and strengthen your nails through your nail care habits, product and tool choices, and your daily environmental exposures.
We’ll start with some intrinsic causes first as they are important to understand.
Aging is an inevitable reality that we all face and can affect us from the way our skin and bodies change, to the way our nails grow. As we age, our nails’ growth slows down significantly and as a result, our nails are exposed to negative environmental influences for longer periods of time. Aging can also compromise blood flow resulting in less efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to our fingernails and toenails. These factors all contribute to nail fragility.
Aside from aging, we can also take a look at the large role genetics play. All of us are born with our nail matrix, the area where the fingernail grows, but not all are alike. The shape and size of your matrix can determine your nail quality. For example, those who have a small nail matrix will tend to have thinner, more easily breakable nails.
What about the cases where you notice that your brittle nails have developed suddenly without a clear cause? It’s best to speak to your doctor to rule out any potential internal disease like hypothyroidism or anemia.
Certain medications can also make nails more prone to breakage. If you think your medication may be affecting your nail health, ask your prescribing doctor.
Now, onto the factors that we have a bit more control over to help significantly improve our nail appearance, starting with nail products.
There are an abundance of nail treatments on the market. Before clicking ‘add to cart,’ look at the product ingredients first. Harsh chemicals may make brittle nails worse. Here’s what to avoid:
These ingredients can be very damaging to the nail and surrounding skin. Formaldehyde starts off by hardening the nail, but over time it will increase the likelihood of your nail separating from the nail bed. Additionally, formaldehyde can cause severe allergic reactions to the surrounding skin, causing irritation, swelling, and pain.
This is another ingredient that can impact the health of your nails by causing them to become dry and dehydrated. It’s often used in nail polish removers as a quick and easy solution for removing your nail polish, gel, and acrylics. If you’re a frequent user of nail polish remover, look for alternatives that have hydrating ingredients and are acetone-free.
When it comes to manicure tools, it’s best to be smart about tool choice. Take a look at some of the nail tools you have on deck. Do you usually use a paper emery board file?
If so, replace it with a glass file instead. Emery files can cause tears in the nails, leading to ridged and split fingernails. A glass file will allow you to get the smooth, desired shape that you want, minus the damage. An added bonus—your polish will be less likely to chip!
While too little moisture can cause problems, excessive water and chemical exposures can also cause brittle nails. In fact, the nail is 1000x more absorptive of water than the skin! As the nail absorbs water, the nail cells expand and contract, putting a lot of stain on the nail thus leading to breakage.
Remember those yellow rubber gloves your mother or grandmother used to wear when they washed dishes? Those are about to become your nails’ savior. When doing wet work like cleaning or washing dishes, wear cotton under the rubber to prevent moist gloves from worsening already weak nails.
On the other hand, there are some situations where this may be harder to do. If you have an occupation where you need to wash your hands frequently, (i.e. health care, restaurants, transportation, etc.) you are likely to be more prone to brittle nails as hand washing is essential. In these instances, prioritizing a treatment to prevent brittle nails will come in handy. Stick with treatments that are rich in phospholipids like sunflower oil, a quality ingredient that has been shown to increase nail flexibility and decrease brittleness.
There’s no question that brittle nails can be discouraging to deal with. The next time you ask, “Why are my nails so brittle?” Think about the causes above to help determine what action you need to take to get on track to lustrous, beautiful nails.