Reading Your Clients: Fingernails

Written by Jenny Farrand

It has been said that outer beauty is a reflection of our inner health. Our fingernails are an outward display of our inner world, often showing health conditions, dietary issues or stress. While it may not substitute for blood work or imaging, analytically viewing the fingernails can be an additional indicator in a medical diagnosis or a sign of a deficient diet. There are hundreds of medical disorders and diseases that may cause nail changes. As beauty professionals, we must remember that some things can be outside of our scope of practice. We are not qualified to diagnose or treat any serious health or medical conditions. If you or your client notices significant nail health changes, be sure to advise them to talk to their primary doctor or dermatologist to investigate the underlying cause and best treatment options.

 

Common Nail Conditions

nailsThere are several nail conditions that may indicate common health concerns. Vitamin deficiencies are often reflected in poor nail conditions. Reddish-brown spots can indicate a deficiency of folic acid, protein or vitamin C. White lines and spots are likely a result of iron or zinc deficiency. A vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest in a reduction in the visibility of the lunula, the whitish crescent moon at the base of the nails. Brittleness of the nails can simply be a sign of aging or may be caused by the long-term use of nail polish, overexposure to strong detergents, dishwashing or swimming. In some cases, biotin supplements can help strengthen brittle nails and an application of moisturizers after water exposure can be of benefit as well. Brittle nails can also be an indicator of hypothyroidism, anemia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia or a response to oral retinoid therapy.
Many nail conditions, such as vertical ridges, are natural and come with age. Others can signal serious health concerns, especially changes in color and growth patterns. If your client has a high fever, serious injury or infection, his/her nails may stop growing temporarily. This is due to the extra demand placed on the body, transferring energy away from the nails, a low priority for a body when it is under stress. When the nails start to grow again, horizontal Beau’s Lines may be noticeable across the nails, showing where the nail growth stopped temporarily. Beau’s Lines grow out eventually and are not a cause for concern.
Pitted fingernails can also be an indicator of multiple skin disorders including dermatitis, psoriasis and lichen planus. Very pale fingernails could be a sign of anemia, early diabetes or liver disease. All of these conditions may lead to impaired blood flow which is the foundation of the reduced circulation to the fingertips. A change in nail color (such as yellowing) could be the result of a nail fungus, respiratory condition (such as chronic bronchitis) or, in some cases, may even be a sign of skin cancer. Conditions like liver and kidney problems can also change nail color, turning nails white or yellow at the tips or near the cuticles. The lunula is the visible part of the nail matrix, or root of the nail. If the lunula is damaged, the nail will be permanently deformed. A vitamin B12 deficiency is a common reason for the lunula to reduce in size or color.

Healthy Nail Care Regimens

Dietary choices are vital for good nail health and will be reflected in the nail’s overall condition. Deficiency in necessary vitamins and minerals are the leading cause of nail changes. Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet heavy in fresh vegetables, whole grains and lean protein will prevent these nail changes and lead to better overall health. Stress is an important factor and, like all other areas of the body, will weaken the nails. When the body is under excessive stress, nutrients are diverted away from the hair, skin and nails to stabilize more vital body functions and support the internal organs.
In order to maintain healthy nails, one must focus on achieving and maintaining healthy cuticles. The cuticles should be soaked prior to treatment using high quality, properly sterilized instruments. Feed the cuticles and fingernails with nutrition internally and externally with oils and creams that feature quality ingredients like soy protein, grape seed, evening primrose and mangosteen.
While there is no perfect atlas or code to crack when it comes to nail changes and health, keep in mind that as a general rule, healthy nails indicate balance in the body and good general health. Negative changes in the nails indicate a need to look at how the body is being nourished, and extreme changes may indicate that your client may need to speak to his/her primary physician or dermatologist to explore what internal issues the nails could be indicating.


Jenny-FarrandJenny Farrand is a licensed aesthetician, massage therapist and the director of education for Universal Companies, Inc. With over 15 years of experience as a former day spa owner and 5-Star resort spa director, Farrand gained extensive industry insight through planning, staffing and training teams for spa opening launches at four unique properties. In her role as Director of Education, Farrand leads her team in the development of e-learning training programs, hands-on training, menu design and treatment protocol creation. She may be reached at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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