7 Tips For Natural Nail Health: How To Have Healthy Nails

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The look of your nails can speak volumes about your overall health and well being. There are indicators of potential issues that you should be aware of. Changes in color or texture should be discussed with your health care professional. Your nails are porous and need to breathe, so keeping them covered for long periods of time is not good for them. Even giving them a few days in between your manicures is a benefit. As a DIYer, it’s wise to invest in a properly shaped metal implement for pushing back your cuticles and cleaning under your nails, as well as good nail clippers/scissors, and emery boards in a variety of (small) grit sizes, as well as a nail buffer. These are all basic nail care necessities that can be easily found in your local drug store, beauty supply store or department store at a minimal expense.  

If you are a nail biter, quit it. If you can’t, there may be an underlying problem and you should speak to your doctor. But you need to realize that everything you’ve touched since your last hand washing is going into your mouth when you bite your nails. Let that sink in for a moment. Then there are the after-effects to deal with.  You know what I mean, would you want to hold the nubby hand with jagged barely-there nails? And if the aesthetics don’t convince you to stop biting, just know that all that biting can lead to ingrown nails and infected cuticles.

What Do Healthy Nails Look Like?

Holding hands.

Hands with healthy nails.

Many of the manicure technicians today, use before and after hand and feet pics of their clients, to promote their business. Even when they don’t have much to work with it is not terribly difficult to achieve healthy-looking nailbeds.

Healthy nails have a smooth texture with no pits or grooves and are consistent in color. Clean and trimmed, they usually have a light pink hue until they grow just over the nail bed then they should be white.  Usually, they will be shaped with no jagged edges, and cuticles pushed back.  

That being said, there are some signs to be aware of. If you start to see that your nailbed looks mostly white, or yellow, there is a good chance that you may not be as healthy as you may feel. If they have a blue tint or a dark line under the nailbed contact your healthcare provider as there could be a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Your toenails are often forgotten since they’re usually covered and tucked away in your shoes. That warm, often moist, environment is ideal for bacteria fungus to thrive. The same care that you give to your fingernails should be applied to toenails, even in non-sandal months. Your toenails should be trimmed straight across, filed properly, and buffed so you can feel confident putting your best foot forward. 

Vitamins For Healthy Nails 

Birds eye view of supplements in bowl next to leaves.

Nutrient supplements.

Vitamin B12, biotin, and omega-3 fatty acids are among the most impact-bearing foods for healthy nails. These nourishing vitamins help to promote wellness, while lubricating nails, giving them a shiny appearance. A diet that includes these fatty acids may also reduce inflammation in your nail bed.
Hydration is important to keep them strong and healthy as well as all-around good health. 

Eggs, almonds, cauliflower, and cheese are among the best foods for healthy nails. Salmon, red meat, and liver are also beneficial to nail health thanks to their rich biotin content. When there is a deficiency in B-complex vitamins, you may notice ridges forming in the nail bed which can lead to splitting and cracking. You may want to consider a supplement if you aren’t getting the necessary food for healthy nails. Adding flaxseed oil and evening primrose oil are both really great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and are easily found in most health food stores. 

7 Tips For Naturally Healthy Nails

1. Keep Them Clean

First and most importantly for achieving and maintaining healthy nails is to keep them clean. In order for nails to remain healthy, you must begin by keeping your nails clean and dry, to help prevent bacteria from growing underneath. This means underneath as well as on top. This also includes using clean utensils -- scissors, emery boards, and cuticle implements. 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 with the nail.

2. Balanced Diet

Assorted toasts with different toppings.

Toast with healthy toppings.

Eating a well-balanced diet that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids is important to keep your nails healthy. Salmon is a delicious start.  You’ll also want to include other protein-rich foods such as lean meats. However, it doesn’t stop with healthy food. It is equally important to maintain good hydration levels.

3. Avoid Cutting Cuticles

Hand on leg.

Woman showing her nails.

Your cuticles are a natural barrier to bacteria and fungus, so once removed, you welcome any and all germs in. It’s best practice to simply push back cuticles with a clean cuticle implement after a shower when the skin is soft. Some are choosing to forego the cutting of cuticles but rather simply using an orangewood stick. They can be found in most drug stores. Cutting the cuticle leaves the nail exposed to a dangerous infection. Pushing back cuticles gives to a similar clean look, giving your nails an elegant appearance.

4. Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Blue test tube poured into orange beaker.

Chemicals being mixed.

So when doing cleaning around the house, it may be a good idea to wear gloves. This actually gives you a great opportunity to give your hands and nails some intense hydration before putting gloves on. Consider a thorough slathering of Vaseline but don’t forget your cuticles, then put gloves on and clean away. To keep your nails looking their best, try cleaning with baking soda, and a drop or 2 of lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide for whitening. Use a nail brush to clean underneath the nails and around the cuticles. You can use a basic hand cream or even straight coconut oil to moisturize but don’t forget to include your cuticles. Many people have found that adding olive or coconut oil to your cuticle regimen a few times a week can make a positive difference, and reduce the frequency of hangnails.

5. Include Toenails

Birds eye view of two pairs of feet in water.

Feet in water.

Basically everything that applies to your fingernails applies to your toenails as well. But because feet are kept mostly in a moist and dark environment making it an easy breeding ground for fungus and bacteria to grow, it’s a good idea to give your toenails extra breathing time. 

6. Avoid Drying Products

Hand squeezing hand sanitizer out of bottle.

Using hand sanitizer.

Avoid drying products like hand sanitizer as constant application will dry your nails, making them brittle. Also, be aware of the shampoo you’re using. If you use a shampoo for oily hair aiming to strip oil, it may not only be removing oil from your hair but from your nails too.

7. Consult A Physician

Speak to your healthcare professional if you notice any sudden changes in your nails and you’ve tried a number of remedies. Taking your nails into account will give you a more accurate picture of your overall health.

Conclusion

So as you see, it’s not so difficult to care for and maintain healthy nails and its importance is great. If you know what to look for, you can certainly tell quite a bit about your overall health just by looking at them. It is important not to use your nails as tools. Opening the tab on a can may weaken them, as will scraping stickers, and prying open a keyring. There are plenty of alternative tools available. 

Keeping your nails clean is a must and the longer they are, the more area underneath to accumulate gunk. So consider keeping your nails shorter unless you are really committed to keeping them clean.

Staying hydrated and a well-balanced diet are key to all-around wellness, nails included. Although we all appreciate the look of well-cared-for hands and feet, it’s best to remember to allow time for nails to breathe. Nails can still look good and be healthy without polish. This is where a good buffer comes in handy. In fact, many people are opting to have naked nails and when they’re kept clean and manicured nails look as good or better than with color. It’s good practice to use an oil or other moisturizer on cuticles and nails every day to maintain a healthful softness.