Fingernail Health: What’s Hot, What’s Not



Next time you visit your doctor, ask them to take a look at your nails. Tamara Lior, MD, a dermatologist with Cleveland Clinic Florida says she once convinced a patient to have his lungs checked after noticing a blue tint to his nails. She was sure he had fluid in his lungs and sure enough, the tests proved positive. 

Fingernail appearance can reflect our overall health AND a wide range of medical conditions.   Below are some visual clues to possible problems. Of course, it’s not a certainty, but it’s a good idea to get it checked if you find your nails look exactly like one of these photos.    Keep an eye out for elderly parents and loved ones too.  Brace yourself.  Some of the pics aren’t pretty. 


1. Nail Separation – infection, injury, thyroid disease, psoriasis

2. Clubbing – lung disease, low oxygen in blood, AIDS, liver disease

3. Beau’s Lines – diabetes, congestive heart failure

4. Pitting – psoriasis, connective tissue disorders

5. Yellow Nail Syndrome – chronic bronchitis, lymphedema, respiratory disease

6. Spoon Nailsanemia, iron deficiency, hypothyroidism, heart disease

7. Terry’s Nails – liver disease, diabetes, malnutrition

7 Other Color Change Warning Signs:

  1. White nails – Liver diseases such as hepatitis
  2. Half-white, half-pink nails – Kidney disease
  3. Red nail beds – Heart disease
  4. Pale or white nail beds – Anemia
  5. Dark lines beneath the nail – Melanoma
One of the most common conditions is fingernail fungus, this causes the nails to crack, peel and change color or texture. These infections are often difficult to treat and may require professional help from a dermatologist. Basically, you want to be alert to changes in texture, shape, or color that aren’t due to a bruise or fungal infection.

Consult your doctor or dermatologist if you notice any of the above.


  • Abuse your fingernails. To prevent nail damage, don’t use your fingernails as tools to pick, poke or pry things.
  • Bite your fingernails or pick at your cuticles. These habits can damage the nail bed. Even a minor cut alongside your fingernail can allow bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection.
  • Pull off hangnails. You might rip live tissue along with the hangnail. Instead, carefully clip off hangnails.
  • Ignore problems. If you have a nail problem that doesn’t seem to go away on its own or is associated with other signs and symptoms, consult your doctor or dermatologist for an evaluation.


Healthy fingernails are smooth, without pits or grooves. They’re uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration. Sometimes fingernails develop harmless vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Vertical ridges tend to become more prominent with age. Fingernails can also develop white lines or spots due to injury, but these eventually grow out.

14 Tips for Strong and Healthy Nails from Reader’s Digest

 1. To keep your nails hydrated, rub a small amount of petroleum jelly into your cuticle and the skin surrounding your nails every evening before you go to bed or whenever your nails feel dry. Keep a jar in your purse, desk drawer, car — anywhere you might need it. Not a fan of petroleum jelly? Substitute castor oil. It’s thick and contains vitamin E, which is great for your cuticles. Or head to your kitchen cupboard and grab the olive oil — it also works to moisturize your nails.

2. Wear rubber gloves whenever you do housework or wash dishes. Most household chores, from gardening to scrubbing the bathroom to washing dishes, are murderous on your nails. To protect your digits from dirt and harsh cleaners, cover them with vinyl gloves whenever it’s chore time. And for extra hand softness, apply hand cream before you put on the rubber gloves.

3. When pushing back your cuticles (it is not necessary to cut them) come in at a 45-degree angle and be very gentle. Otherwise the cuticle will become damaged, weakening the entire nail, says Mariana Diaconescu, manicurist at the Pierre Michel Salon in New York City.

4. Trim your toenails straight across to avoid ingrown toenails. This is particularly important if you have diabetes.

5. Dry your hands for at least two minutes after doing the dishes, taking a bath/shower, etc. Also dry your toes thoroughly after swimming or showering. Leaving them damp increases your risk of fungal infection.

6. Air out your work boots and athletic shoes. Better yet, keep two pairs and switch between them so you’re never putting your feet into damp, sweaty shoes, which could lead to fungal infections.

7. Wear 100 percent cotton socks. They’re best for absorbing dampness, thus preventing fungal infections.

8. Stretch out the beauty of a manicure by applying a fresh top coat every day, says Susie Galvez, owner of Face Works Day Spa in Richmond, Virginia, and author of Hello Beautiful: 365 Ways to Be Even More Beautiful.

9. Make your nails as strong as a horse’s hooves, and take 300 micrograms of the B vitamin biotin four to six times a day. Long ago, veterinarians discovered that biotin strengthened horses’ hooves, which are made from keratin, the same substance in human nails. Swiss researchers found that people who took 2.5 milligrams of biotin a day for 5.5 months had firmer, harder nails. In a U.S. study, 63 percent of people taking biotin for brittle nails experienced an improvement.

10. Add a glass of milk and a hard-boiled egg to your daily diet. Rich in zinc, they’ll do wonders for your nails, especially if your nails are spotted with white, a sign of low zinc intake.

11. File your nails correctly. To keep your nails at their strongest, avoid filing in a back-and-forth motion — only go in one direction. And never file just after you’ve gotten out of a shower or bath — wet nails break more easily.

12. Massage your nails to keep them extra strong and shiny. Nails buffing increases blood supply to the nail, which stimulates the matrix of the nail to grow, says Galvez.

13. Polish your nails, even if it’s just with a clear coat. It protects your nails, says manicurist Diaconescu. If you prefer color, use a base coat, two thin coats of color, and a top coat. Color should last at least seven days but should be removed after 10 days.

14. Avoid polish removers with acetone or formaldehyde. They’re terribly drying to nails, says Andrea Lynn Cambio, M.D., a New York City dermatologist. Use acetate-based removers instead.


More Healthy Nail Habits:

  • Keep your nails clean and dry
  • Avoid nail-biting or picking
  • Apply moisturizer to your nails and cuticles every day to help prevent cracking
  • File your nails in one direction straight across and round the tip slightly, rather than filing to a point, trim & file regularly
  • Don’t remove the cuticles or clean too deeply under your nails, which can lead to infection
  • Don’t dig out ingrown toenails. See a dermatologist if they become bothersome
  • Avoid nail polish removers that contain acetone or formaldehyde
  • Bring your own instruments if you get frequent manicures
  • If you have artificial nails, check regularly for green discoloration (a sign of bacterial infection)
  • Eat a balanced diet and take vitamins containing biotin (more information on best foods for your nail  health below)
  • Keep your fingernails dry and clean to prevent bacteria, fungi and other organisms growing under fingernails. Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when washing dishes, cleaning or using harsh chemicals, and avoid long soaks in tub.
  • Use moisturizer on your hands. Rub the lotion into your fingernails and cuticles, too




Nail biting may result in the transportation of bacteria buried under the surface of the nail that are hard to clean and easy to get in the mouth. Likewise, broken skin on the cuticle may be susceptible to microbial and viral infections. These pathogens can be spread between digits via saliva. I suggest visiting for tips on how to stop.


ANSWER: Almonds, peanuts, yogurt, eggs, tomatoes, fresh fruits & vegetables and water. Those foods are great for your nails because they contain biotin. You need 2.5 mg of biotin a day for strong nail health. The worst thing you can do for your hair, nails and skin is starve your body. Good health is feeding yourself nutritious foods daily.


If you have a question that wasn’t answered, feel free to leave it in the comments below.  

Stay Healthy! Maria  🙂


13 thoughts on “Fingernail Health: What’s Hot, What’s Not

  1. Dermatologists, or skin care doctors, have expertise in the care of normal skin as well as in the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of skin conditions, including skin cancers.Dermatologists also diagnose and treat people with disorders affecting the hair and nails. In addition, dermatologists are knowledgeable in the management of cosmetic disorders of the skin (for example, hair loss, scars, and wrinkles).^

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  2. Spot on with this write-up, I actually think this site needs a great deal more attention.
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  4. I have horizonial ridges in practically every fingernail, when the ridges reach a certain level they then began breaking and I try very hard to keep them from tearing off aa they catch on things and become very sore…how do I keep them beginning to tear when they reach only half way up the nail…I keep them filed and also lotioned….should this be seen by a doctor or what????

    1. Horizontal ridges on fingernails are also known as Beau’s lines and are harmless most of the time. Conditions ranging from stress to kidney and thyroid disease can cause changes in your nails, so you should bring this to the attention of your physician if it doesn’t go away.

      Meantime, try to eliminate worry as that only contributes to stress. There are times when stress is unavoidable. That said, there are things you can practice daily that will help. Firstly, make healthy choices with foods and beverages. Avoid sugar, caffeine and highly processed foods. Drink lots of water. Practice deep breathing. Make sure to get at least 9 hours of sleep each night. Stretch and do some form of exercise daily, even if it’s walking. There are also Hair, Skin and Nail vitamins available at any CVS or grocery store you can begin taking. If you’re already doing all these things, then visit a physician. If not, see if this helps. It typically takes thirty days to notice a difference when you engage in new habits, so be patient. Of course, if none of this helps, get it checked. As mentioned, most times the ridges are harmless. Thanks for reading. Stay healthy!


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