PAINTING OVER THE CRACKS
It’s time you knew what your nail colour sans varnish says about you
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.
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.
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.