1. Style

Common Fingernail Disorders Explained


Young woman filing nails, close-up
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We're excited to bring Hillary Fry back to About.com - Skin Care. Hillary was with us before and share all of her knowledge about Shellac Nails. Many of you took her advice and went on to have your own Shellac experience. More reviews come in each week.

This time we talked to Hillary about common fingernail disorders. What's normal, what should I skip the manicure appointment for and when should I see a doctor.

What does a healthy nail look like? A healthy fingernail in general has a uniform pink coloring under the nail, kept cuticles and is free from peeling or cracking.

Let’s talk about some of the issues we sometimes get on our nails: white spots, purple spots, green spots. What are they and what should we do about them? White spots can signify trauma or superficial dehydration. If you somehow hit your nail, you can get a little blemish. If your nail is dry it may get that white appearance. It is superficial, common even with nail polish and seen more often during cold months. Cuticle oil can help with those issues.

Purple and green indicate other issues that may require treatment (bruising, cancer, fungus).

What are some things that we should cancel our manicure appointment for? Or that you, the nail tech, would cancel once we got there? It’s never a good idea to come to your manicure appointment bleeding, but you’d be surprised how many people come in this condition.

Let’s talk about hangnails and torn cuticles. How do you advise we heal them at home and is it OK to get a manicure when we have a major, painful hangnail. Hangnails and torn cuticles are painful! A manicure is the best way to quick remedy the situation, because initial cleanup and conditioning should happen during your service.

If you are experiencing intense pain it is possible you’ve got an infection starting. It’s very important you don’t rip the hangnail out as you can break the seal to your nail and give opportunity to a systemic infection. Have it clipped off from the side and see a doctor if needed.

Again, cuticle oil will work to keep the nail from splitting off in that manner by keeping it plasticized. The effects are cumulative so apply early and often.

What about when nails get paper thin? Should we let them breath or use a hardener on them? Your nail thickness is determined at birth, but nails can get thinned out from overfiling the surface of the nail. In this instance you want to focus on getting flexibility back into the nail.

Clip the nail short, and apply nail oil daily that is formulated to penetrate the nail and skin. Products are designed for different purposes, and you really want oil that will do more than just sit on the surface of your skin.

Nails are made of keratin and are essentially dead, so they have no need to breathe, but just like hair they require conditioning to avoid drying out. Cuticle oil will give you the quickest results to healthy looking nails. Top it with a rich lotion to seal the deal.

Hardeners are okay if you avoid products with formaldehyde. They only dry the nail out further. Taking a supplement like Biotin will also help strengthen from the inside out.

Why do some people have ridges in their nails? Does it indicate a lack of a certain vitamin? Ridges are caused by a number of things, including general aging and vitamin deficiencies. Ridge fillers can help even out the look of superficial vertical ridges. If ridges are wavy and horizontal, this can signal deeper issues or matrix damage. Consult your doctor with any concerns.

Can you tell by looking at your nails if there is a vitamin deficiency? Only a doctor can legally diagnose an ailment.

What’s your professional advice on wearing polish constantly? Is it a good idea or should we pick one day a week to let our nails breath? Use a high quality base coat, a high quality polish free from Formaldehyde, Toluene and Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), high quality top coat and condition often with cuticle oil and you should be fine. When you take breaks, let your fingers enjoy a hot oil or lotion bath. Problems occur when people don’t condition the skin and nail enough or use cheap grade materials. You really do get what you pay for.

Hillary Fry is a salon and editorial manicurist with 12 years experience in the beauty world. Follow her coverage on nail trends, beauty and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at website www.solessence.com and Youtube.

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