Nail Health: 8 Things To Know

Characteristic of primates and neighbors of claws or hooves, the nails are real subjects of concern. In today’s society, they represent undeniable assets of seduction, but they are above all a reflection of good general health. Do you really think you know them?

Men’s fingernails grow faster

Many have noticed it: the nails of the fingers grow much faster than those of the feet, especially those of the dominant hand. On average, fingernails grow 3.5 mm per month against 1.6 mm for those of the feet. 

Obviously, this speed will depend on many factors such as age, sex, level of activity, or genetic heritage. Women’s fingernails grow slower than men’s, except when pregnant 1. We find this scenario for the hair: it is the hormones that increase the metabolism and accelerate circulation. 

Curiously, nails also grow faster in summer than in winter. The researchers put forward a theory to explain this phenomenon: they would be more mobilized at this time of the year, which would accelerate their growth. It is also during childhood that the speed of pushing is the strongest. 

After adolescence, it would slowly decline until reaching 50% of its initial speed after the age of 60.

This growth can be slowed down by certain illnesses, poor diet, taking certain medications, or trauma.

White spots on the nails are not linked to a lack of calcium

Contrary to popular belief, the white spots that sometimes appear on the nails are not the result of a lack of calcium. They are the result of blows, small impacts on the matrix, or the flat of the nail. 

These small traumas lead to keratinization disorders: the cells that will constitute this part of the nail (keratinocytes) do not lose their nucleus and this area will therefore appear non-transparent to light. 

People who bite their nails or file them are more prone to this totally benign problem. There is therefore no need to increase your consumption of dairy products if you already have a balanced diet.

Nutrients play a role in nail health

The lack of calcium may not cause white spots on the nails, but it would still be important for their structure. Thus, a study showed that calcium supplementation (1 g/day for 1 year) improved the quality of the nail. 

In addition, their fragility would decrease with biotin supplementation (2.5 mg daily) while regular consumption of carotenoids, through food or supplements, could be effective against onycholysis (a painful detachment of the tip of the nail).

On the other hand, no study has proven that taking vitamins E, A, C, and B12, retinol, iron, zinc, copper, or even selenium improves the health or appearance of the nail in people with a balanced diet. For others, it is obvious that all nutrients are important for the nail as for all the structures of the body.

Toenail fungus is common

The nail is not immune to disease. Quite the contrary! About 10% of dermatological consultations would be devoted to it, half of which would concern only nail fungus, or onychomycosis. 

This mycosis, which has nothing to do with hygiene, generally develops in a humid and warm environment: the toenails are therefore the most affected. In the vast majority of cases, onychomycosis does not heal on its own. This pathology should not be allowed to drag on, because the more time passes, the less effective the treatment will be. 

If your nails suddenly look yellow and thick, don’t wait! Other pathologies can lead to symptoms of this type, which is why it will be necessary to take a mycological sample before considering treatment. If the diagnosis is confirmed,

Nails: sometimes brittle, sometimes too thick

Brittle nails are a problem for 27% of women according to a German study published in 1986. Most of them consider it to be a recurring problem that interferes with their daily life. 

The nails are however very solid anatomical structures, organized in 3 different layers. However, the edges are less protected because these layers tend to peel off at this level, particularly when they are wet. Excessive manicures, and especially the application of false nails, would also increase their fragility. 

If, on the contrary, your nails are too thick and difficult to cut, soak them in warm salt water for 5 to 10 minutes and possibly apply a urea cream to soften them.

Ingrown toenails mostly affect the big toe

People who have ever experienced an ingrown toenail know how severe the pain is. Most of the time, the nail concerned is located on the big toe of the foot, more particularly at the level of the lateral edge. In 80% of cases, it is linked to cutting the nail too short: when it grows back, it is bothered by the bead of flesh that surrounds it and ends up penetrating the soft part. 

It would seem that the transverse curvature of the nail is then affected. Bad posture while walking, shoes that are too small, or digestive problems could also play a role in its appearance. Children, adolescents, young adults, and pregnant women would be more exposed to it even if we do not yet know the reasons. 

When the ingrown nail is painful and you notice an infection that does not disappear after two days, it is important to consult your doctor and not wait any longer, especially if you are diabetic.

If the ingrown toenail does not cause unbearable pain and you do not find any infection, you can follow these tips  :

– Soak the foot in hot water for a quarter of an hour, 3 times a day.
– Leave the nail exposed as often as possible.
– Wear wide shoes and avoid heels.
– Avoid humidity.
– Insert a small piece of cotton between the corner of the nail and the skin, to prevent it from penetrating further into the skin.

To avoid ingrown nails, take care to cut your nails straight, even slightly rounded at the center.

A hematoma under the nail will not necessarily lead to the loss of the nail

Most athletes know this little inconvenience well. Repeated trauma during long runs or direct shocks such as the crushing of a foot, sometimes causes bruises under the nail. 

The nail detaches from its nail bed in a microscopic way but this is enough to break small blood capillaries. A blue or black spot then appears, and the pressure generated causes a painful and throbbing pain. 

For example, the same phenomenon can appear when you get your finger stuck in a door. If nothing is done, the nail will then gradually peel off and eventually fall off.

It is therefore necessary to evacuate the hematoma as quickly as possible. Rather than going to the emergency room for such a small glitch, you can do it at home using a simple paperclip. 

Simply heat the tip until it turns red, then push it gently through the nail, at the hematoma. Do not worry, the nail is not innervated, and you will not have more pain than you already have. The hole allows the evacuation of blood, which instantly reduces pain and reduces the risk of nail loss.

Biting your nails causes dental deformities

Onychophagia, or nail biting, is a habit commonly seen in children and young adults. Between 28 and 33% of children aged 7 to 10 bite their nails. 

The origins of this pathology related to a nervous tic include anxiety, stress, loneliness, imitation of another family member, heredity, inactivity, or poor maintenance of the nails. 

There are preparations to apply to the nail whose taste is supposed to discourage onychophagous people. Still, it would be more effective to consider a treatment against the cause at the origin of the pathology. This bad habit causes damage to the cuticles and nails and can cause infections and dental deformities.

Image Credit: Photo by Ellie Eshaghi on Unsplash

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