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Look after those nails

                                           May 2010  

Look after those nails

healthy nailsNails are more important than many of us realize. For both men and women, healthy good looking nails can add a lot to our overall appearance and image, and the condition of our nails reveals a lot about our overall health.

As we age, nails can develop lots of problems, from yellowing or thickening to developing white spots or becoming ridged and unsightly; but with some good care and sensible nutrition, we can ensure beautiful nails stay with us well into old age.

Nails are there really to protect the mass of nerves in the tips of our fingers and toes. There are lots of “technical” parts to our nails; including the nail plate, the hard visible part we see when looking at our fingernails. Another vital part of the nail structure is the nail bed; the skin just beneath the nail plate. It is the cells at the base of the nail bed that produce the nail plates. The cuticle, the tissue that overlaps the nail plate, is also vital as it protects the new cells that are growing up from the nail bed.

Nails are composed mainly from a type of protein called keratin and can grow from around 0.05mm to 1.2mm each week.

Nutrition plays a major part in the production of healthy nails. It is thought that dry, brittle nails can be caused by a lack of vitamin A while white bands across the nails can be caused by protein deficiency. A deficiency in vitamin B12 is said to cause dryness and splitting, while insufficient zinc may cause the development of white spots.

However, we can also cause a lot of damage to our nails by our general day-to-day activities - if you regularly immerse your hands in water that contains detergents or other chemicals substances, do wear protective gloves. Otherwise these chemicals can cause the skin around the nail bed to dry out and crack.

For women, nail polish removers leach natural lipids from the nails making them brittle; wearing nail polish all the time prevents the nails from breathing which can make the nail very unhealthy.

There are some good tips around to help achieve naturally beautiful nails. A good diet is of course key, lots of fruit and raw vegetables plus foods that are rich in silicon and sulphur (such as fish, broccoli and onions). Food rich in biotin such as brewer’s yeast, soy and whole grains is also useful.

Drinking plenty of water is always a good idea and also fresh carrot juice is important to promote healthy nails – this is high in calcium and phosphorus which helps to strengthen the nail cells.

To restore a good colour and texture to nails, make a mixture of equal parts of honey, avocado oil and egg yolk with a pinch of salt. This isn’t a new super food! Instead, rub it into the nails and leave on for about half an hour every day for a week or two. You will be surprised at the difference this can make.

You can of course buy commercial products from the supermarket and pharmacy and these can all help to keep nails healthy; massaging in cuticle oil several times a day will stimulate and nourish the nail bed and encourage new growth, and men shouldn’t be shy of doing this; beautiful nails are for everyone.

A little regular care and attention to your nails will help good nail health and also make a surprising difference to your overall appearance.


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