Some are born with naturally beautiful nails and hands that just seem to stay picture perfect.
For many others (myself included) growing and maintaining healthy nails can be a challenge at times.
Did you know that there are two kinds of stress that can affect the health of your nails?
In this Ask Ana article, you’ll learn the different ways physical and emotional stress impact the health of your nails.
Hello Ana, I’m a very stressed person, dealing with anxiety for a long time now. I have experienced hair loss, acne breakouts and such on. Recently I’ve noticed certain lines on my nails that look like fractures. Seeing these lines made me wonder, is there any affect on the nails by severe anxiety? What are the effects that anxiety have on hair and skin? I have read your article about stress fractures. The lines I mentioned look very much like stress fractures. Could my stress fractures actually been caused by stress? ~Emma
Emma, this is a great question!
There are actually different definitions for the word “stress”. The main two are physical stress and emotional stress. They affect our nails differently.
Definitions of Stress
Constraining force or influence: such as
a: a force exerted when one body or body part presses on, pulls on, pushes against, or tends to compress or twist another body or body part; especially: the intensity of this mutual force commonly expressed in pounds per square inch
b: the deformation caused in a body by such a force
c: a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation
d: a state resulting from a stress; especially: one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium job-related stress [Source: Merriam-Webster.com]
Transverse and lateral fissures usually occur when the nail is sharply bent. Transverse fissures (horizontal) are caused when the nail plate is nearly bent and small cracks form in the stress area. Lateral fissures (vertical) are often caused when the free edge is sharply impacted. ~Doug Schoon, author of Nail Structure and Product Chemistry
The fissures, which I call stress fractures, happen when you aren’t paying attention and you wack your nail against something hard. It can also happen when doing a task that forces your nail to bend.
Sometimes the stress exerted on the nail is so intense that it can cause the nail to bend but not snap. The nail layers are split too much to recover.
If you are regularly using a jojoba wax ester based nail oil, then your nails will bend. If not, the tips will be too dry and break.
I usually get a stress fracture in one of my nails when putting clean sheets on my bed. I try to get my husband, Cory, to take care of that chore as much as possible!
I used to do a silk or fiberglass nail repair over the stress fracture to preserve the damaged tip. Since I have horses and a garden that require a lot of hard work that puts more stress on my fingernails, I just file off the fracture or cut my nails shorter. The daily chores in my life just don’t allow my nails to stay long. Thankfully, the nail community has shown me that well manicured short nails can be very beautiful.
The good news about stress fractures is that stress fractures can be filed off.
As for the second kind of stress, emotional stress, well that is a much bigger beast to tackle.
We all experience stress in our body every day. Some stresses are healthy and some are not.
Falling in love is a stress on the body but in a very good way. Your body produces chemicals that make you feel great when you’re in love.
There are plenty of other stresses that can take a toll on your body too. Divorce, moving to a new home, health issues, surgery, new medications, and school/job stresses are just a few examples.
I often get asked, “why have my nails suddenly started peeling?” Since the average nail takes about 4 months to replace itself, I ask, “what big thing happened to you 4 months ago?”
Ninety percent of the time it can be pinpointed to a big personal stress.
Why Does Stress Matter?
Our nails are constantly changing.
People want to think that they don’t change, but this just isn’t true.
Take a look at the nails of a toddler and then the nails of someone over 90 years old. Ridges become far more pronounced as we age. This is because children are in a continual growth mode.
As we get older, our digestion declines and it’s harder for the body to absorb all of the nutrients from our food. We also tend to develop more health issues as we age.
It took me 18 months to heal from my abdominal surgery in 2014. About 4 months after the surgery, my nails were noticeably thinner and were constantly peeling. They continued to stay that way for well over a year.
Because my body was in preservation and healing mode. Since fingernails and toenails are the farthest from your core internal organs, fewer nutrients are delivered to the nail matrix. This means the quality of nail cell your body creates when stressed seriously declines.
Like I mentioned before, some stresses are good. But they can be bad at the same time.
Let’s look at getting married.
There’s the joy of being in love, but the thousands of decisions a couple will make for the wedding day can make both of them go a little crazy.
Or how about moving into a new home?
There’s the joy of finding your new living space and feeling like you’re starting a new stage of your life.
But, then you have to pack boxes, move all the boxes hoping nothing breaks, try to find immediate living stuff as quickly as possible, finish unpacking and decorating.
Sounds exhausting, right? Well, it is. It can take up to a year to finally feel settled in and for your body to feel more relaxed.
Work Till You Die?
Did you know that more people have heart attacks on Mondays?
According to researchers, an “outpouring” of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, occurs within working people on Mondays. These findings were substantiated in a study of 683 patients, predominantly middle-aged men with implanted defibrillators (pacemakers) and a history of life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias (heart attacks). The data led researchers to conclude that Monday is the most stressful day of the week when it comes to risk factors for heart attack. [Source: DrSinatra.com] https://www.drsinatra.com/heart-attack-risk-factors-rise-on-mondays
Chronic stress at work can take a toll on your body too. All jobs have stressful tasks. We can’t help that. But we can decide which type of stress it’s going to be.
If you dread going to work every morning, it’s time to start looking for a new job. Working at a job you hate could just kill you.
The word disease comes from Middle English (in the sense ‘lack of ease; inconvenience’) and from Old French desaise ‘lack of ease,’ from des- (expressing reversal) + aise ‘ease.’
If your body is not at ease, all sorts of problems start happening.
This is why it’s so important to do as much self-care as possible.
It starts with making sure that you are sleeping enough, making healthy food choices and drinking enough water. The new rule of thumb with water intake is to calculate your body weight and divide it in half. Use this number to determine how many ounces of water your body needs daily.
For example; someone who weighs 150 pounds (68 kilos) needs 75 ounces of water (2.21 L). Someone who weighs 300 pounds (138 kilos) needs 150 ounces (4.44 L).
Of course, as we hear so often from doctors, media, and health experts, we all should exercise regularly, even if it’s just taking a daily walk.
And it’s important to find ways to relax. Whether it’s meditating, reading, journaling, drawing or painting our nails, it’s important to find what works for you.
When your body is at ease, all of your bodily functions are able to heal and improve, including making better nail cells.
And that’s what we all want, right?!