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Unless you meticulously take good care of your nails and monitor them for any little variance, you might not know what sorts of things to look for in order to determine whether your nails are healthy or not.
Healthy nails are important – likely more important than you even realize – so being able to recognize the signs yours are doing OK is crucial.
Here are some signs you have healthy nails, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
They’re a pink or mauve color.
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Your nails should generally appear to be a pale sort of pink or mauve. And it’s not actually the nails themselves that are the color, it’s the tissue underneath.
“A nice healthy nail will have a pinkish or mauve hue as it reflects the color of the nail bed underneath,” Dr. Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist, told INSIDER.
“When you apply pressure to this area, you should be able to make this color disappear temporarily and reappear rapidly once pressure is released. This is a sign that you are well hydrated and have good blood flow to your tissues. By applying pressure you are pushing blood away from the tissues and then releasing pressure allows it to flow back in – this is referred to as the capillary nail refill test.”
They’re not full of ridges.
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Although vertical nail ridges are normal, horizontal ridges might signify a problem.
Deep horizontal grooves in your nails are known as Beau’s lines and they may point to a more serious problem. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the appearance of these lines could indicate an injury to the nail matrix, unmet nutritional needs, or an infection in the nail plate, drug reactions, or even a high fever.
If you notice these signs, it’s important to consult with a clinician or dermatologist.
They don’t break easily.
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If your nails are especially brittle, you could have a condition called onycholysis, which Mayo Clinic describes as fingernails separating from the nail bed. This condition can lead to potential injury, infection, or even drug reactions.
Although an iron deficiency may cause brittleness, it’s also possible that your are simple wetting and drying your nails too often, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
If your nails seem sturdy and rarely break, chances are they’re healthy.
They aren’t bitten short.
So, if you don’t bite your nails, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing your nails are safe from infection and other worrisome conditions.
Your nail fold isn’t puffy.
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According to WebMD, if the skin around the nail appears red and puffy, it means your nail fold is inflamed.
This may be the result of lupus or another connective tissue disorder. A nail infection can also cause redness and inflammation of the nail fold.
You have cuticles.
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Contrary to popular belief, cutting your cuticles isn’t a good idea.
“Remember the nail plate is just keratin that grows out of the nail matrix,” Ilyas said. “The cuticle is the skin right on top of the nail matrix. Protecting your cuticle will protect your nail growth! The cuticles serve as a barrier to protect your matrix from bacteria, fungus, yeast, inflammation, and trauma.”
Cutting your cuticles can actually be pretty damaging to your nails, putting you at risk for developing all kinds of issues.
“Once you do this, you open your nail matrix up to not only infections but other problems such as grooves and irregularities in the nail growth,” Ilyas added.
Your hands, nails, and cuticles are moisturized.
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“Keeping your skin well moisturized, especially around the nails and especially in the winter when we are all prone to dry cracked hands, will help keep your cuticles healthy and support healthy nail growth,” Ilyas said. “Applying petroleum jelly to your cuticles every night will help keep them hydrated. Any thick moisturizer can serve the same purpose.”
If you’re keeping your hands, nails, and cuticles clean and hydrated, you’re doing something right.
There are no dark lines in your nails.
Dark lines beneath the nail should be investigated as soon as possible as they are sometimes caused by subungual melanoma. According to Healthline, is a type of skin cancer that begins in the nail matrix.
If you have a light to a dark brown colored band on the nail that’s usually vertical or a dark band on the nail that slowly expands and covers more of the nail, go to your doctor immediately.
If your nails are pink or mauve without any signs of dark discoloration, chances are they’re perfectly healthy.
You don’t have nail fungus.
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Taking good care of your nails and cuticles isn’t just important so that they’ll look good, but it’s also important because nails that are too long can tear and cause injuries, among other things.
“Nail health is important because if we do not address these issues early on, the damage to the main matrix can result in permanent nail damage,” Ilyas said. “The most common nail concern tends to be nail fungus. Even though we have some treatments for this, many people do not realize that if the fungus damages your nail matrix, even if you treat the fungus the nail may stay permanently thickened and difficult to manage.”
Your doctor finds no qualms with your nail health.
Since your nail health can say a lot about your overall health, it’s important to consult your doctor if you notice anything odd about the look or feel of your nails.
If you go to the dermatologist, however, and everything checks out, then there’s nothing to be concerned about.
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