Nails have no colour and are transparent. Because of the abundance of blood vessels under the skin, nails appear pink when healthy. The tissue of the nail is called the matrix and the white half-moon (lunula) is at the top of this. Below the matrix is the nail bed, where the nail attaches to the finger. The cuticle, which is the skin that grows over the nail bed, grows towards the tip of the nail and forms a watertight seal protecting the matrix. The cuticle should never be cut away as this increases the chance of getting a nail infection.

Massaging your cuticles with oils, which include primrose, camellia or almond, can soften the skin, which helps when pushing back the cuticle when manicuring your nails. Rosehip oil is another good oil that can be used, this oil contains prostaglandin, which strengthens the nail cells and increases circulation – it can also stimulate growth. The fatty acids it contains will replenish moisture and the vitamin C content helps to fend off germs.

Nail Problems

Brittle, discoloured nails, or nails with lines may be symptoms of changes within the body. Thyroid, kidney or problems with circulation could be the cause of brittle nails; even the fact that there is not enough Vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids or calcium in your diet may also be a contributing factor.

Vertical lines may be caused by a shortage of iron, while lines that are horizontal indicate stress levels are raised. Also, both of these symptoms may indicate none or little absorption of nutrients. Tell-tale signs of fasting/poor diet are white spots on the nail. Introducing a zinc supplement to your diet may help to restore this to a normal level. Nails, which peel, crack or chip easily, may be caused by lack of minerals being absorbed – a mineral supplement may help with this.

Common Nail Problems and Possible Causes

– Spoon-shaped nails (lack of iron in the diet)
– Square, wide nails (hormonal imbalances)
– Very thick nails (the onset of vascular degeneration or thyroid conditions)
– End of nail curves down (lack of vitamin B12)

Looking After Your Nails

To ensure healthy nails, a diet should include plenty of fruit and vegetables to make sure that vitamins and minerals are absorbed properly. Silica is essential for the formation of healthy and strong nails – a silica supplement in the diet would be most beneficial.