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A Beautiful, Natural Nail

Your fingernails are an essential detail of your appearance. Essential detail sounds like an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp, but when you think about it, success always depends on the details. Details can make the difference between chocolate pudding and pot de crème au chocolat. Even if you spend six hours getting dressed, a detail like spinach in your teeth can ruin your appearance.

Beautiful fingernails say good things about you. They show that you pay attention to details, that you care about cleanliness, and that you successfully manage your time so you can spend a few minutes on keeping your hands attractive. At the very least, you’ll want healthy, smooth, clean fingernails that indicate you care about your personal grooming. You may want crisp, polished nails that show you are a professional, no-nonsense kind of person. Perhaps you would like long, elegant nails that give you an air of glamour or sophistication.

Your fingernails also speak volumes about your health. In their natural state, the shape, color, and strength of your nails can change due to many different health factors. Most important to this discussion: fingernails are a very good indicator of your nutritional status. Problem nails can be a sign that your body is not getting all the nutrients it needs.

When you stop to think about fingernails, they make a lot of sense. They provide a tough covering for our sensitive fingertips and extend the capabilities of our hands like little tools at the ends of our fingers.

The fingernail itself is a hard covering made mostly of keratin, the same protein found in skin and hair. The part you see is called the nail plate. The skin underneath the nail is called the nail bed. Healthy fingernails are pink because of the circulation in the blood vessels of the nail bed. The skin at the bottom of each fingernail is called the cuticle. The cuticle overlaps the nail plate. Be kind to your cuticles, because underneath them is the fingernail factory called the matrix. New cells for your nails are produced in the matrix. As they grow, they push the older cells out toward the ends of your fingers. This process squashes the older cells so they become hard and flat, forming your fingernails. Unlike your hair, which grows in stages, fingernails are constantly growing.

The white half-moon shape at the bottom of each fingernail is called the lunula. The skin that surrounds your fingernails on all three sides is called the nail folds. Sometimes the nail folds become swollen or irritated.

You can expect your nails to grow about a tenth of an inch each month. If you’re waiting for your nails to grow out, you’ll have to be patient. It takes about six months to grow a complete fingernail, but the rate is very individual. Fingernails grow faster when you are young, and they grow more quickly on your dominant hand (if you are right-handed, the fingernails on your right hand grow faster).

The ideal fingernail is strong and resilient—tough but not hard. Natural fingernails should be able to bend instead of break. If you leave the edges alone so they grow out straight, the fingernail will be stronger—plus you’ll be less likely to get an ingrown nail.

Those White Spots on Your Nails
Are Due to Calcium Deficiency
White spots on the fingernails (scientific name: leukonychia) are extremely common and harmless. Usually they are caused by trauma to the nail—for example, you bumped your finger without noticing. Temporary injury to the cuticle—for example, pushing it back too roughly—also can cause a white area in the nail that becomes apparent as it grows out. Slamming a car door on your fingers, a rough manicure, or excessive nail biting can result in white spots. Since a normal fingernail takes months to grow out, you may not notice the white spots until some months have passed since you unknowingly hurt your nail.

If you have noticeable white spots or bands on all of your digits, it could be a sign of a zinc, protein, or calcium deficiency. Sometimes nails that appear white accompany disease states, such as cirrhosis of the liver. However, white spots are rarely the first signs of such conditions and usually appear once major symptoms have already occurred.

For Fabulous Fingernails
*Drink plenty of water to hydrate your fingernails from the inside out.

*Consume quality protein every day.

*Make sure you are consuming an adequate amount of B vitamins.

*Consume at least three servings of calcium-rich foods daily.

*Avoid crash diets and don’t make your diet too restrictive!

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