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.
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. Not all fingers have a visible lunula.
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’ish 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 about 50 layers in their fingernails (100 for toe nails). A person with 40 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. It’s not necessarily bad to have clear fingernails, as long as it’s not from too much water.
Biggest Cause of Clear Fingernails
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 1/3rd 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.
Check out our Mini/Overnight Hydration Process to give your nails a quick boost of hydration.
Here are what my nails look like after an overnight hydration. Note that the oil has fully penetrated the layers of my nails, making them look semi-transparent. That is a GOOD thing!
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.
Nail Polish Removers Cause White Tips
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.
2. Use Deborah Lippmann’s technique of removing polish with one cotton ball. (Video below)
- Open the cotton ball into one long piece and cut it into sections that will fit on your nails.
- Dip one piece of cotton in acetone.
- Lay that piece on your nail, pressing it into the lacquer.
- Repeat the process with the remaining 4 fingers.
- Then return to the first finger, press into the cotton and pull the polish off. It should completely wipe off.
- Repeat with remaining 4 fingers.
- Repeat all above steps on your other hand.
Deborah Lippmann’s Polish Removal Technique
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.