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Dermatologists Offer Nail Health Tips

6 Steps to Improved Nail -- and Overall -- Health

Taking Biotin Supplements

Phoebe Rich, MD, director of the nail clinic in the department of dermatology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, recommends taking 2.5 milligrams of biotin, a B vitamin supplement, a day to help strengthen your nails.

Wearing Gloves

“Use gloves for wet work, gardening, and chores,” Rich says. This can protect nails from breaking as water softens your nails, especially when combined with heavy-duty scrubbing.

Telling the Manicurist What Not to Do

“Don't let them buff or sand the surface of your nail before polishing because this thins or weakens the bed,” Rich says.

Also, “don’t let them push back your cuticles,” says Michele Green, MD, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “If you don't push back cuticles there is no portal of entry for fungus. It’s that simple.”

Knowing What to Look Out For

“A dark line or mole under a finger- or toenail could be melanoma,” Green says. “Lines, rippling, and pitting of the nail may be a symptom of the skin condition psoriasis or another inflammatory disease.” Blueness in the nail can be a sign of lung infection, diabetes, or another circulatory problem, she says. “Splitting, yellow, and brittle nails can be signs of anything from fungal infection to thyroid disease, and nails that are white toward the bed with a darker circle surrounding the whiteness may indicate liver disease. If something doesn’t look right, see a dermatologist.”

Brush Up on Beauty

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