PAINT­ING OVER THE CRACKS

It’s time you knew what your nail colour sans var­nish says about you

Women's Health (UK) - - GOOD LOOKS -

NO COLOUR/VERY PALE

Nu­tri­ent de­fi­cien­cies are one of the most com­mon rea­sons cited when things go wrong with nails. ‘Anaemia can show it­self in pale nails that lack colour,’ says Dr Fried­mann. Look fa­mil­iar? It may be time to boost your iron in­take.

BLACK LINES

If you have a black stripe and it doesn’t change width, it’s likely to be a be­nign mole un­der the nail bed. But no­ticed it change shape or grow? ‘See a der­ma­tol­o­gist ur­gently as it may be a melanoma, a form of skin cancer,’ says Dr Clay­ton.

YEL­LOW/GREEN

Nails can re­veal whether some­thing’s a lit­tle off with your thy­roid. ‘Things to look out for in­clude dis­col­oration of the nail plate,’ says Dr Tak­wale. A yel­low/green tinge can also in­di­cate a fun­gal in­fec­tion – ei­ther way, best to get it checked.

BIT­ING OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW

Can’t keep your hands out of your mouth when cor­ti­sol lev­els are up? The sat­is­fac­tion of each nib­ble and gnaw is so not worth it. Tech­ni­cally known as ony­chopha­gia, nail­bit­ing not only dam­ages your nails, it can also cause prob­lems be­cause of what your mouth is adding to the party. ‘Nail-bit­ing can re­sult in the trans­fer of yeast and bac­te­ria found in the mouth to the nails,’ says Dr Dana Stern, as­sis­tant clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of der­ma­tol­ogy at Mount Si­nai Med­i­cal Cen­ter in the US. ‘This can re­sult in in­fec­tions such as parony­chia, where the skin around your nail be­comes red and ten­der, re­sult­ing in pus-filled blis­ters at its most ex­treme.’ But reg­u­lar bit­ing can be more than a bad habit. ‘Men­tal ill­ness can present in the form of nail-bit­ing in anx­ious pa­tients,’ says Dr Tak­wale. Nail-bit­ing has been linked with OCD, too. Hap­pily, all dam­age to your nails is re­versible – as long as you can break the be­hav­iour. ‘Keep nails short and man­i­cured so there is noth­ing left to chew or bite,’ says Lynn Gray, nail ex­pert for Swiss nail­care brand Mavala. ‘Oc­cu­py­ing the hands or mouth with other ac­tiv­i­ties, such as chew­ing gum or squeez­ing a stress ball, can also be use­ful.’ Or make like your child­hood self and give the bit­ter polish treat­ment a go. Mavala Stop (£11 for 10ml) is a trans­par­ent var­nish with a ran­cid (but com­pletely harm­less) taste. If that doesn’t do it, there’s noth­ing left but to make your peace and try to keep your bit­ten hands as clean as pos­si­ble.

IN THE RED?

Red­ness around your nail could be in­flam­ma­tion if you’re a picker or a biter – or it could be an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion. ‘Nail var­nish of­ten con­tains chem­i­cals such as cam­phor and formalde­hyde, which can be a cause of con­tact al­ler­gies,’ says Dr Fried­mann. ‘It’s rare for in­di­vid­u­als to be­come al­ler­gic to their polish, but it can hap­pen.’ And don’t think that you’re im­mune just be­cause you’ve never had any prob­lems be­fore. ‘Al­ler­gies can oc­cur with nail prod­ucts used for a long time,’ says Dr Tak­wale. Avoid the chance of an un­wel­come re­ac­tion with non-toxic nail polish brands such as Kure Bazaar, whose ve­gan var­nishes are up to 90% nat­u­rally de­rived and ‘10-free’ – mean­ing that 10 com­monly used var­nish chem­i­cals have been re­moved from the polish formation.

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