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Nails as Hard as…Nails

If you’ve been neglecting your nail health, it may be time to give them a little more of your attention. Here’s the why and how.

“Ow! I chipped a nail!” If you’re a woman, you’ve probably howled these words in pain a few times during your life. If you’re a man, you may never understand what the big deal is. Does it really hurt all that bad? Well, yeah, it does. But that’s beside the point. Because when someone damages his or her fingernail, the damage may be deeper than you imagine. Interested now? Read on and you’ll be more nail-savvy than you ever thought possible.

Why do nails matter?

A first impression is always important to getting off on the right foot of any relationship – whether business or pleasure. Since your fingernails are always in the public view, keeping them healthy and clean is just one more way to protect against a bad impression. On top of that, your fingernails act as small shields for your fingertips. In the event your good health comes under attack, you can often see signs of your declining well-being in your nails.

Do nails really indicate whether I’m healthy or not?

Yes they do. Granted, fingernails or toenails aren’t exactly crystal balls or computed tomography (CT) scans that give a direct look into your insides, but they can throw up red flags that something isn’t quite right within the interior of your body. For example, thin, concave nails may indicate an iron deficiency. (For more health cues you can take from your nails, read “From Nail to Body.”)

Okay, nail health really is important. But what’s the best way to have healthy nails?

For basic nail health, keep your nails clean and dry, moisturize them daily, and don’t file the tips to a point. You should also try to lay off of your lifelong nail-biting habit. And if you pick at your nails, don’t think that’s any better. Stop that as well. No matter if you have bad nail habits or not, ask your physician to give your nails the once-over at your next regular appointment.

Well, I already do all that. Is it really that easy?

Not necessarily. One of the first things you should know for optimal nail health is that more environmental factors affect your nails than you may think. Harsh soaps and shampoos and particularly rough emery boards can all damage your nails. Though the damage from soap may seem minimal, a long period of harm can lead to unappealing results that leave you wondering why your nails never look like the commercials.

Also, never tinker with your cuticles. They’re in place to serve as a barrier against bacteria and infection. Manipulating them in any way – even if it’s your most trusted manicure or pedicure expert doing the manipulating – puts your nails at greater risk for becoming injured by infection or bacteria.

From Nail to Body

Is the nail-body connection a gimmick? Find out yourself. If you’re wondering how your heart, kidney, and other systems are operating, check out the following list to see if you suffer any common nail health maladies. In the event you do have nail conditions described, you may want to consider getting checked out for its associated disease. After all, it’s better to be warned of your condition by your nails than by a life-altering event.

Anemia: pale or white nail beds
Diabetes: yellowish nails with pink base
Heart Disease: red nail beds
Hepatitis or Other Liver Diseases: white nails
Kidney Disease: half-white and half-pink nails
Lupus: irregular red lines on the nail
Melanoma: dark lines under the nail
Psoriasis: rippled or pitted nails
Various Lung Diseases: slow-growing, yellowish, thick nails or inverted nails

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