Our fingernails are composed of laminated layers of a protein called keratin which grows from the area at the base of the nail under the cuticle. Healthy fingernails are smooth, without pits or grooves. They’re uniform in colour 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 with the nail.

Not all nail conditions are normal, however. Consult your doctor or dermatologist if you notice:

  • Changes in nail colour, such as discoloration of the entire nail or a dark streak under the nail
  • Changes in nail shape, such as curled nails
  • Thinning or thickening of the nails
  • Separation of the nail from the surrounding skin
  • Bleeding around the nails
  • Swelling or pain around the nails

Nails reflect our overall health, which is why proper nail care is so important. Here are few tips for keeping your nails healthy:

  1. Keep nails clean and dry and practise good nail hygiene.
  2. Trim nails straight across. Use nail cutter or clippers. Round the nails slightly at the tips for maximum strength.
  3. Keep nails shaped and free of snags by filing with an emery board.
  4. Do not bite fingernails or remove the cuticle. Doing so can damage the nail.
  5. Do not use your nails as a tool, such as opening pop cans.
  6. Trim toenails regularly. Keeping them short will minimize the risk of trauma and injury.
  7. Use moisturizer. When you use hand lotion, rub the lotion into your fingernails and cuticles, too.
  8. When toenails are thick and difficult to cut, soak your feet in warm salt water. Mix one teaspoon of salt per pint of water and soak for 5 to 10 minutes.
  9. Avoid “digging out” ingrown toenails, especially if they are infected and sore. If you are suffering from an ingrown toenail, see a dermatologist for treatment.
  10. Wear shoes that fit properly. Also alternate which pair of shoes you wear each day.
  11. Wear flip flops at the pool and in public showers. This reduces the risk of infections caused by a fungus that can get in your toenails.
  12. Apply a protective layer. Applying a nail hardener might help strengthen nails.

Imbibing these tips will keep the dermatologist away except for general check-up. Don’t forget that your nail reflects your general state of your health. Your nails are fragile, so take good care of them.