Clear Fingernails – Is It a Bad Thing?

NailCareHQ-Clear-Fingertips-Is It A Bad thing?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 too.

By the end of this article you will understand what the things are that cause nails to turn clear and that it might not be an indication that something bad is happening.


“Hi Ana! I have a question for you…What does it mean when you put Pure™ Nail and Cuticle Oil on and the free edge is practically transparent..I.E-the white is gone and you can see the tip of your finger behind the nail through it?” ~Kim



There are many factors that can cause the free edge of your fingernails to be clear. Figuring out how clear fingernails happens can get complicated, so I will do my best to keep it simple.

The most important thing to know is … that your nail plate is made of translucent keratin protein.

The Healthy Nail Plate

Translucent keratin protein—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.

Nail Care Fingernail LabelYour 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) are turning white, it’s because your nails are drying out and the whiter they are, the more dried out they are.

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? Is it better to have clear fingernails? Read on…

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 110 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. It’s not necessarily bad to have clear fingernails, as long as it’s not from too much water.

Causes of Clear Fingernails

Nail Care Clear fingernails Loodie

Photo of clear fingernails used with permission from LoodieLoodieLoodie


1. Water

The photo to the left from LoodieLoodieLoodie after she enjoyed a crab feast, shows that continuous contact with water can make your nails transparent. Also washing your hands dries out your skin and 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. You can easily see that your nails have absorbed too much water because you have clear fingernails.

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.


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.

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.

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.


2. Nail Polish Removers

acetone and brittle nailsI 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 nail industry who wanted to create another removal product 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 polish faster! You want to use the product that dissolves lacquer faster because it’s LESS drying.

Solutions – 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. The solution is to remove polish quickly and then take some time rehydrating your nails with a little water and a lot of oil before your next manicure.

nail care nail oil before using acetone

Apply oil before removing polish

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 Deborah Lippmann’s technique of removing polish with one cotton ball. (Video below)

  1. Open the cotton ball into one long piece and cut it into sections that will fit on your nails.
  2. Dip one piece of cotton in acetone.
  3. Lay that piece on your nail, pressing it into the lacquer.
  4. Repeat the process with the remaining 4 fingers.
  5. Then return to the first finger, press into the cotton and pull the polish off. It should completely wipe off.
  6. Repeat with remaining 4 fingers.
  7. Repeat all above steps on your other hand.
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

Deborah Lippmann’s Polish Removal Technique

In Conclusion

Now you’ve learned the external causes of clear fingernails, you can make a choice. You now have more information to discover what your healthy nails look like and to keep them that way. Perhaps having clear fingernails isn’t such a bad thing.

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16 Responses to Clear Fingernails – Is It a Bad Thing?

  1. Jan November 3, 2013 at 4:35 am #

    HI there, I am wondering if you know if there is any way to get the nail to re-attach itself back to the nail bed??

    • Ana November 4, 2013 at 5:28 pm #


      Unfortunately, once the nail plate has separated from the nail bed, there is no way to convince it to re-attach. You can keep it bandaged until it is no longer painful and then slowly clip it down as it grows out. Can you give me a little more info about what you’re dealing with? You’re welcome to email me photos at Ana (at) NailCareHQ (dot) com.

      • Andrea Berrios December 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

        Hello, after reading this i realized that the lunula on my nails isn’t showing on any besides my thumb, and i recently got a manicure, and am removing the nail polish as we speak, should i be concerned?
        Also, the nail on my middle finger is extremely translucent compared to the other ones.
        FInally, i have the same problem, on my big toe, the nail detached itself from the nail bed it has not gotten worse but has been this way for over 6 months, and it is not painful, anyway i can help it heal quicker?

        Thank you,


        • Ana March 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

          My apologies for not getting back to you sooner.

          You have no need to worry. The lunula is simply the exposed portion of the matrix. Most people are just like you…only visible on the thumb nail.

          If your toenail is detached from the nail bed, it’s very possible that it’s being caused by a nail fungus. You will want to visit your doctor to chat about the best way to take care of it. ~Ana

    • Jane't June 22, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

      I found this article extremely educational. You can’t believe everything we are told. It’s amazing how I’m really starting to learn a lot of what we think we know and believe is just lies hidden behind deceit. A lack of knowledge let’s history repeat itself. I have always been told and have always known that white tips are the best and what your nails should look like, but with mass propaganda it really does show how the mass media can be fooled into believing lies.

      • Ana June 25, 2014 at 11:42 am #

        Thank you for stopping by Jane’t.

        I’m so happy you found the article helpful. That’s why I write. It’s important to separate the truth from marketing claims. ~Ana

  2. Sapphire Wolff December 7, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    Okay, I know this is a stupid question, but after reading this article about how water can get trapped between cells in your nail bed and stuff, how are we supposed to wash our hands?
    They say you have to scrub your fingertips against your palm with soap for a few seconds, and again when your hands are under water to wash away the soap.
    If this is the “correct” way to wash your hands, how are we supposed to clear our fingers of germs and stuff without making our skin dry and hydrating our nails too much?


    Sapphire Wolff
    (My real name)

    • Ana December 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

      Dear Sapphire,

      That’s the rub, isn’t it? It’s impossible for us to wash our hands a dozen times per day and not wash away our body oil. Once upon a time, we used to wash our hands once a day in the nearest river. At that point our body creates enough moisture and body oil to keep our skin and nails healthy.

      Our new age of “massive cleanliness” comes with a price. “Massive Dehydration.” So we need to replace that oil, and the very best commercially available ingredient is jojoba liquid wax ester. It looks like an oil at room temperature, but under the microscope it looks and behaves almost identically to our body oil.

      This article will explain in much more detail.

      Wash your palms only, not the backs of your hands, unless you’ve been digging in dirt. Wash under your nail tips with a nail brush and water or soap, then rinse, no more than once daily. Replenish the oil in your skin and nails after each hand washing with a jojoba based oil like Bliss Kiss™ Pure Oil™. Your skin will love you for it. 😀 ~Ana

  3. Lori December 29, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    Nails very brittle always breaking splitting n peeling can u help

  4. John April 25, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    I recently got a job dishwashing and noticed recently my nails are really clear! So i checked up on it. ty for the great article!

  5. Kelly September 10, 2014 at 4:58 am #

    I am so glad I found this article. I started using jojoba oil on my nails earlier this summer and they are now longer than they have ever been!! But I realized that they were near translucent and not the bright white I imagined they would be. I’m so glad to know that they are actually healthy that way! I’m so glad I found your site and for the first time ever have fingernails that actually extend past my fingertips! My husband is amazed at the results the jojoba oil has brought!

  6. Jade January 6, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    The free part of my nails are a yellowish colour. Is that a bad thing?

    Both of my thumb toenails have something like a bumb on it. One of my toenails has a grey streak. 2 of my toenails on each of my foot go straight then go up but my other toenails go down. Please help me


    • Vicky September 20, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

      Your nails probably got stained from nail polish (red ones are the worst) That might be the reason why they are yellow.

      Don’t know about the bulb… More details needed. About the way your nails grow, that’s normal. Usually the middle nails grow downwards and the pinky grows straight for example. About the grey streak, it might be nothing but I still think you should see a doctor just to be sure.

  7. taicraven February 26, 2015 at 5:48 am #

    I wear cotton gloves under my rubber gloves.
    My hands don’t get clammy or hot and my nails stay extra dry 🙂

  8. Brittany July 12, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    Thanks! This was a great article!!