Skip to content

Hair-Nail Health

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

WebMD the Magazine - Feature

Q: Do my hair and nails really reveal anything about the state of my overall health, as so many women's magazines claim?

A: To some degree, this is TRUE -- especially with your nails. And while "you can't look at someone and determine their general health or how well they're aging by their hair and nails," says Richard Scher, MD, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, your coif and manicure can betray a number of health concerns.

For instance, certain changes in the nails can point to particular diseases. Some types of heart disease can turn the nails bright red, while fully white nails may suggest liver disease.

"If the nails become yellow, it may indicate diabetes or lung disorders, such as sinusitis. If they lose their nice pink color and become very pale, it could be a sign of anemia," says Scher.

Nails offer more clues for the health detective, but some hair disorders can point to disease, Scher says. A sudden, rapid onset of brittle hair (rather than life­long split ends) or hair loss could point to broader health problems.

Notice a difference in your nails or tresses? Talk to your doctor.




Brush Up on Beauty

halle berry at film festival
Turn Back Time

Celeb hairstyles that make you look years younger.

woman with dyed blonde hair
20 Best Kept Hair Secrets

What you need to know for a beautiful mane.

woman using nail file
Soft, Weak, Brittle, Bendy

Think you know how to solve your nail problems?

toenail file
Your Guide to a Perfect Pedi

Dos and don'ts to keep your tootsies in tip-top shape.

hairstylist sectioning hair
The Truth About Your Tresses

Think you know the right way to care for your hair?

woman with long straight hair
Hair Straightening Savvy

Do you know the safest way to uncoil your curls?

URAC: Accredited Health Web Site TRUSTe online privacy certification HONcode Seal AdChoices