Often times people think that clear fingernails is a sign that something is wrong. While your fingernails are a reflection of your overall health, there are external factors that can make you have clear fingernails.
By the end of this article you will understand what are the things that cause nails to turn clear and that it might not be an indication that something bad is happening.
“Hey there! I was wondering if you could help me with one of my biggest nail problems…
I’ve always had extremely transparent nails, we can actually see through them (but that’s only one part of the problem) and as you can guess they’re uncommonly weak,they tend to unwillingly easily bend and thus causing some kind of imitation of brittle nails. I’ve tried different treatments to strengthen them but nothing has ever truly worked.
So my question is, would there be something to change in my diet, a keratin trouble of some kind? (since i also have very thin and weak hair) or simply does a magical product i don’t know of actually exists…? Thanks a lot in advance for your precious help! ~Calou
This is a topic that can be very convoluted, so I will do my best to keep it simple.
There are many factors that can cause the free edge of your fingernails to be clear. But the most important thing to know is … that your nail plate is made of translucent keratin protein.
The Healthy Nail Plate
Yep, the healthy nail plate is supposed to be semi-transparent.
The pink area you see on your nails is actually the life nourishing, nail bed BELOW the nail plate. The nail bed provides a constant flow of moisture and oil through the nail plate.
Your fingernail is produced in the matrix right behind your eponychium, (cuticle line). The lunula (small moon) is the only visible part of your matrix. The reason the lunula is a different color is because those are the keratin nail cells that are plump and still alive. Most people can see the lunula on their thumbnails.
As soon as those keratin cells pass the lunula area, they die. They dry out, loose their opacity—becoming translucent, and flatten becoming the 50 layers of keratin cells that make up our “fingernails.”
The color of the free edge that extends past your fingertips depends on how much of the inner cell material stays in the nail plate cells as they continue to grow forward on the nail plate.
Usually, they are fairly clear just as they move past the fingertip, then turn white because they aren’t being ‘hydrated’ by a continuous upward flow of body oil and moisture from the nail bed.
Are White Tips Healthy?
So if your nail tips (free edge) is turning white, it’s because your nails are drying out and the whiter they are, the more dried out they are.
Hypothetically speaking, this makes me wonder if we’ve got it all backwards. Is the reason white tips are so highly coveted because our society has never known how to properly rehydrate their nails?
Are You Average?
Genetics, your health, and natural nail thickness are important parts in determining what color your nail turns as it leaves the fingertip.
The average number of keratin layers people have is 50 layers in their fingernails (150 for toe nails). A person with 90 layers may have tips that stay more transparent. A person with 60 layers is going to have more layers to keep hydrated, and if they don’t, the tips become whiter.
Once you’ve properly rehydrated your nails with a jojoba based nail oil, that’s the color your nails are supposed to be. They could be completely translucent, or be partially white with spots or bands of translucency, or fully white. All are normal.
Other Factors That Affect Color
According to Dr. Bhupinder Kaur on the MedHelp website, continuous contact with water can make your nails transparent. Washing your hands not only dries out your skin, but it also strips oil from your nails.
There are many microscopic channels that make it easy for the nail plate to absorb large quantities of water. A normal nail plate can hold almost 1/3 it’s own weight in water!
Water is able to pass BETWEEN the keratin cells but also THROUGH the flattened cells. Nails that have been soaking in water become overly soft, overly flexible and tear easily.
Healthy nails have about 18% water. But too much moisture can weaken the nail plate by separating the keratin layers leading to serious peeling and splitting problems.
Oil: Since we all need to wash our hands and bathe, to fight the water’s effect on your nails, rehydrate them with a high quality, jojoba based nail and cuticle oil.
Gloves: Learn to love gloves. I know many of you hate them, but realize that for various reasons you have “decided” to hate them. If you want healthy, beautiful nails, then you need to decide to love gloves.
Wear cotton gloves while doing dry housekeeping. Wear dish gloves for as much wet housekeeping as possible; dishes, laundry, heavy cleaning. Cut back on your contact with soaps and detergents.
Polish: Nail polish is a strong protective barrier between your nail plate and water. Nail polish doesn’t eliminate water absorption but it slows it down significantly. Just make sure you are completely wrapping your base coat and top coat around your free edge.
Nail Polish Removers
I know I’m stating the obvious, but polish removers are very drying to your nails. If you love polish then you have to love removers. But most of you don’t. You fear acetone.
Why? Because someone in the non-acetone industry had an excellent public relations department who brainwashed us into thinking that non-acetone is less drying. We bought into the lie.
The truth is that acetone and non-acetone ingredients (ethyl acetate & methyl ethyl ketone) are solvents. They dissolve stuff that water can’t dissolve. Nail polish needs a solvent.
According to scientific information, acetone is slightly safer than ethyl acetate & methyl ethyl ketone. And acetone dissolves things faster! You want the product that dissolves lacquer faster because it’s LESS drying.
Work With the Acetone
If acetone is going to dissolve nail polish, then it’s going to dissolve the oil in your nails. Acetone also evaporates extremely fast, taking your nail’s moisture with it. This seriously whitens nail tips and makes them very brittle.
1. BEFORE removing polish, cover the skin around your nails with an inexpensive oil from your kitchen. Let the acetone work on that oil instead of your skin’s oils.
2. Use the Deborah Lippmann technique of removing polish with one cotton ball. Don’t rub the acetone to scrub off the lacquer
3. AFTER removing polish, gently scrub your nails with a nail brush and warm, soapy water for one or two minutes. This will put water back into your nails.
4. Rehydrate your nails with a jojoba based nail oil. Keep reapplying oil when your nails feel dry for 2 to 8 hours.
5. When you’re ready to polish your nails again, follow the directions at the bottom of www.nailcarehq.com/chipped-nail-polish-from-the-shower
I doubt there is any great medical significance here, but there are three things that should be checked to make sure you are not deficient in them.
These are checked on blood tests but are not done routinely and so you will need to ask your GP to check for them specifically.
Deficiencies in these can cause discoloured, brittle or white spots on nails.
Make sure you are eating a good diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables.
The NetDoctor Medical Team
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