When nails are healthy, they are smooth, hard, pink and glossy. But numerous factors can cause a change in their thickness, colour and/or texture: the external stresses they are subjected to daily, natural ageing, nutritional deficiencies, health problems, etc.
Each day, our nails are subjected to numerous external stresses that lead to dehydration, such as repeated hand washing, bumps and knocks, cold and sun. Once they are dry, they become fragile and brittle.
Our nails also naturally become more fragile with age: beyond 60 years of age, their growth slows down and they often become dry, brittle and dull.
Diet also plays a major role in nail health: a deficiency in certain nutrients (protein, trace elements and vitamins) often results in soft, brittle, ridged, pale or yellow nails.
Lastly, at any age, certain health problems can have repercussions on nails:
• Ridged nails can be due to hypothyroidism or anaemia.
• Pale or blue-tinged nails are sometimes a sign of poor circulation.
• Brittle, soft or splitting nails are often a sign of nutritional deficiencies or hormonal problems.
• Yellow nails can be due to smoking cigarettes or using coloured nail varnish, but they can also be caused by hyperglycaemia or certain treatments, including chemotherapy.
• Yellowish-white patches, particularly on the big toe, can be a sign of a fungal nail infection. In this case, the nail thickens and becomes friable, and its colour progressively changes: it gradually turns brown, green or yellow. See a skin specialist if you notice one of these signs.
• A dark stain or line on a nail is most often a sign of a bruise caused by an impact, but it can also signal a melanoma, and as such you should quickly see a skin specialist.
On the other hand, contrary to popular belief, the small white spots that sometimes appear on nails are not a sign of a calcium deficiency. Actually, they are usually caused by bumping the nail.