Nail care: At your fingertips

Fingernails have more uses than just cosmetic appeal. Read on for a quick course in nail care

Happy womanA nail seems like an insignificant part of our body. In reality, it’s anything but. The duty of a nail is to protect—it helps in covering the nerves in the fingertips, which are highly sensitive. In addition, nails provide strength and durability to our fingers and tips when we use our hands to do strenuous work.

Nail trail

Fingernails are made of keratin, a hard protein and the same component that hair is made of. Although the rate varies, nails grow around an inch and a half each year. The longer the finger is, the faster the growth rate. However, there are several factors that affect the growth of our nails:

  • Age
  • Diet
  • Ill health.

On an average, a nail takes between 5 – 6 months to grow from the matrix [base of the nail that joins at the skin] to the free edge. And the nail plate growth slows on average 25 – 33 per cent over a normal lifetime.

There are, however, certain instances when the nail grows quicker:

  • In younger people rather than older people
  • During pregnancy
  • In the summer than in the winter
  • On the hands rather than the feet.

If your existing nail is lost or injured, a new nail will always grow. But if the matrix [the root of the nail] is damaged, the nail will grow back deformed.

Good food guide

What we eat constitutes what our nails are made up of and eventually how they look. So, to ensure that our nails remain healthy, the first discipline we must promise ourselves is to eat healthy foods.

All the foods listed below are good for your nails.

  • Carrots: CarrotsFresh carrot juice is rich in calcium and hence will help in strengthening nails.
  • Broccoli, fish, onion, apples, cucumbers, grapes, garlic, asparagus: rich in sulphur. The presence of sulphur in our body ensures proper circulation.
  • Water: nails that show cracks indicate that you are not drinking enough water.
  • Milk, eggs, liver, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach: rich in vitamin A, which helps nails grow.
  • Dried beans, cashews, yogurt, raisin, chickpeas, cheese, almonds, milk, chicken breast, red kidney beans, peas and oatmeal are rich in zinc. Zinc deficiency can cause poor nail growth, white spots and white lines on nails.
  • Meat, dairy products and eggs: The only reliable source of vitamin B12. Insufficient vitamin B12 can result in excessive dryness, very rounded and curved ends and darkening of nails. Nails may also become flat and thin.

Nails tell

In addition to looking well-groomed and clean, protecting your fingertips is essential to maintaining healthy nails. This is because our nails actually indicate underlying problems that have set into organs of our body.

  • Pale or white nails indicate anaemia, kidney or liver disorder
  • Yellow nails signal jaundice
  • Red nails show that there’s a bleeding beneath the nails
  • Purple nails mean there’s a blood clot beneath the nails
  • Black nails point to bacterial infection
  • Blue nails mean lung or heart disease
  • White dots show malnutrition or vitamin loss
  • Grey nails stand for arthritis, malnutrition, glaucoma
  • Green nails evidence bacterial infection and allergies
  • Brown spots beneath nails suggest psoriasis [skin and joint disorder].

Parlour pampering

It is advised that you get your nails professionally pampered from time to time. However, too much of everything is bad. Hence, once every 4 – 6 weeks is a good option to let your nails relax in the hands of a professional manicurist.

However, one should adhere to basic manicuring at least once a week at home. Avoid colouring your nails too often and for prolonged periods, as your nail needs to breathe. In fact, it is strongly recommended if avoid using nail polish when at home. Reserve those beautiful colours for special occasions like a party or an office gathering.

Though there are many options available cosmetically to cover up unhealthy nails, it is not all about having the perfect set of nails to look good. We must maintain beautiful nails as part of good personal hygiene to ensure that our body is really as healthy as it looks.

A few golden rules even as we finish:

  • Use nail polish remover sparingly—not more than once a week
  • Moisturize your nails as often as your hands and legs
  • Let your nails breathe! Abide by the rule ‘nude nails’ when at home – reserve those nail paints for special occasions
  • Eat healthy.

Nail it

Some good personal habits go a long way in having beautiful nails.

  • Do not bite or eat your nails.
  • Your nails are fragile—do not use them as tools to scratch that label off or as convenient ‘screw drivers’.
  • Remove hangnails by gently clipping them with manicure scissors to prevent damage to your skin and tissue.
  • ‘Less is better’ when it comes to consumption of sugar and alcohol if you want healthy nails.
Anuradha Ch
Anuradha Ch is a trained cosmetologist with a degree from the Christine Valmy Beauty School, New York. She is also the director of Anoo's a chain of salons in South India. Anuradha's hobbies include watching movies and sports like cricket, cooking and reading books. She lives in Hyderabad.


  1. what is the reason for the corners of the nails curling up and giving a very narrow look as they grow.


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