For healthy nails, keep them clean, trimmed, and filed smooth. Use a cuticle oil or sweet almond oil on ragged cuticles. Resist the urge to pull or cut them since this can trigger an infection and invite fungus colonies. Avoid nail products that contain acetone, formaldehyde, and toluene, which can dry out or weaken the nails and surrounding skin or cause allergic or irritant reactions. Also, avoid acrylic nails, since they’re the perfect harbor for fungus.
Fungal infections can cause nails to become thick, crumbly and discolored. In addition to being unsightly, the nails may be painful, especially when they are constricted by tight-fitting shoes. Most often the problem strikes toenails, though hand nails and the surrounding skin of the palms or soles may also become afflicted. When this condition develops into itching, flaking, and even blisters, it’s know as Athlete’s Foot. Anti-fungal drops and creams can help prevent the infection from spreading to other nails. However, to fully clear an infected nail, it’s often necessary to take anti-fungal pills. Because other conditions can mimic nail fungus, visit a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and prescription.
Psoriasis is a genetically caused condition that doctors believe is related to the immune system. It can affect skin on the whole body, particularly the knees, scalp, hands, feet, or lower back. It causes itching and burning, and produces patches of raised, inflamed skin. In addition, nails with this condition become thick and discolored, and they can develop tiny pits or brown spots on the surface—even lifting off the nail bed.
Thin, brittle nails tend to split easily or fail to grow past a certain length. There are a number of reasons for this. Generally, conditions that produce dry skin will also produce dry nails. These include winter weather and exposure to chemicals and detergents. Repeated application of acrylic nails can also make the underlying nails more fragile. Finally, with time and age, nails tend to become thinner and weaker. To prevent breakage, protect your hands from harsh chemicals and even water, which has an adverse effect over time. If you wear acrylic nails, it’s important to take them off from time to time and let your natural nails breathe. Contrary to popular belief, eating gelatin will not help nails grow faster.
Paronychia is a bacterial infection of the skin surrounding the nail. It produces swelling, redness, pus drainage, and pain. If you notice any of these signs, you should see a doctor immediately to get any pus drained and obtain an antibiotic prescription.
Black nails can be a sign of previous trauma, the most common cause of which is blood collecting under the nail. Examples of this include hitting a fingernail with a hammer or slamming a door on a toenail. In fact, even running can make nails turn dark if your toes repeatedly strike the front or top of the shoes. Often, the nail is also painful and must be drained. Other possible causes of black nails include infection and even melanoma. A nail that turns dark should be brought to the attention of a dermatologist, especially if there has been no obvious trauma.