Your hands are like a business card – they tell a lot about you and the person you meet for the firs time can read a lot from the state of your hands. If that person is a doctor, he or she can additionally tell a lot about the state of your health just by looking at your nails. One of the signals that something might be out of balance in your health are white spots on the fingernails, called leukonychia.
They may be caused by various factors, both physical and chemical and depending on the reason, there are many ways to deal with them. Luckily, those white marks hardly ever require medical consultation and can be dealt with through some simple home treatments.
What Is Leukonychia?
The white marks that sometimes occur on the fingernails are small and usually of semicircular shape. If they appear on the toenails, the are often referred to as ‘jogger’s nails’ because this is a common condition in people who practice sports. Those white spots are not painful nor are not a serious health problem, but may be a sign of a condition that should be addressed as soon as possible in order to prevent any serious disease from developing.
Depending on the cause, white spots on fingernails can grow out on their own and don’t require any action on your side or may be a sign of certain deficiencies, in which case you have to identify them and replenish the missing vitamins and minerals.
Causes Of White Spots On Fingernails
White marks might result from mechanical damage to the matrix of the nail (e.g. while jogging or putting too much pressure on the nail during manicure). The injury usually takes place a few weeks before the white mark appears, so many people don’t associate the incident with the occurrence of leukonychia. White marks caused by mechanical damage grow out on their own and all you need to do it to avoid further injuries.
Some manicure products, like nail polishes, nail hardeners, nail polish removers etc. may contain harsh chemicals that damage the fingernails instead of protecting them. Sometimes a product that you have been using for a long time can suddenly cause an allergic reaction, so be vigilant and observe your nails to know whether all the products you use bring benefits to your fingernails or just the opposite.
It’s a good idea to alternate from time to time the brand of cosmetics you use for your manicure as well as leave your nails polish-free once every few weeks, If you are so used to having painted nails that you wouldn’t feel comfortable without anything on them, you can sill give them a break every now and then by putting on a coloured nail conditioner. Those products usually have natural colours – peach white or beige – but they look very elegant and you can use them to do the French manicure.
Even though more frequent on the toenails, fungal infection also happens on fingernails. Fungus needs a warm and moist environment to develop, therefore, it doesn’t happen very often that it occurs on the fingernail. That’s why you shouldn’t panic if you see some white spots. Only after you’ve tried some of the remedies we recommend below and still don’t see any improvement, should you take anti-fungal treatment into consideration.
One of the minerals that are crucial for maintaining the nails strong and healthy is zinc. When the level of this mineral drops below the necessary level, the body alarms you with the white spots on the fingernails. You can easily replenish the level of this mineral by incorporating oysters, spinach, nuts, whole grains, baked beans and yoghurts in your diet. While the white spots caused by zinc deficiency are not a major problem, prolonged zinc level abnormality can cause diarrhoeas, weaker immunity, thinning hair, susceptibility to stress, acne and rashes.
White marks on the fingernails might also be a sign of calcium deficiency. Since this is the most common problem, there are various manicure products that supposedly contain calcium and can help you replenish the much-needed mineral in the fingernail. However, those products are not as effective as introducing changes to your diet or taking calcium supplements. You can increase the intake of cheese, yoghurt, milk, sardines, soy beans and soy milk. Just like in any other case of mineral deficiency, the white marks on fingernails are just the tip of the iceberg. If it lasts longer, it can lead to muscle spasms, depression, hallucinations, numbness in the hands, feet and face as well as weakened bones structure.
If you body lacks proteins, it may also show on the fingernails in the form of white lines. This is a common problem of many vegetarians who don’t supplement the proteins properly. If you eat meat and fish and you have white lines on your fingernails, try eating more turkey breast, salmon, tuna, pork loin and lean beef. If you are vegetarian, increase the intake of tofu, beans, soy milk, nuts and seeds. People devoid of proteins may suffer from muscle cramps, mood swings, low energy and they may have problems sleeping. In a long term, these problems may develop into a more serious, neurological condition.
Home Remedies For White Spots On Nails
In order to assure fast regeneration of the fingernails, you need to make sure they are properly and regularly moisturised. Rub in vitamin E oil or a nourishing hand lotion. Do it every night, before going to bed, as well as after ever time you wash your hands. Also, remember that moisturising creams only lock in the water that’s inside your skin and you have to replenish it by drinking at least 1,5 litre every day.
Certain foods are highly beneficial to the nails, their healthy growth and regeneration. Apart from the above-mentioned foods rich in zinc, calcium and proteins, you should make sure that you take in a lot of products rich in vitamin C (e.g. oranges, lemon, grapefruits, apples, carrots and strawberries) and sulphur (e.g. broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, poultry, fish, meats, nuts and legumes).
Let it Grow
If the white spots are caused by a mechanical injury, the simplest way to get rid of it is just to let it grow. It might require patience, however, since – depending on the person – the growth process of the entire fingernail length may take up to eight months. Once the white part grow out beyond the nail bed, you can safely clip it. Meanwhile, if the white spot bothers you a lot or is very unsightly, you can cover it with a nail polish or coloured nail conditioner.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil can be used in fingernail white spots treatments regardless of the cause of the problem. If they occurred because of a mechanical injury, tea tree oil will nourish and hydrate the nails. If fungus is the cause, the oil has antiseptic and antifungal properties. Remember that this oil should always be diluted with a carrier oil, like olive oil or jojoba oil, otherwise it may be too harsh on the skin around the nails. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with a few drops of olive or jojoba oil and rub it into all the fingernails. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes and rinse off with warm water. Repeat three to four times a week until you see that the white marks on the fingernails are completely gone.
Orange oil has similar properties to tea tree oil and may be of a great help when you want to get rid of white spots on fingernails. Additionally, it brightens up the nails if they have lost the healthy colour due to constant use of chemicals, like nail polish and nail polish remover. Apply orange oil directly on the fingernails and leave it on for 45 minutes up to one hour. It should soak completely into the nails. Wash your hands and apply a moisturising cream to finish off the treatment.
Vinegar has antibacterial, antifungal and whitening properties. You can use it to remove the white marks on your fingernails by soaking the nails in a solution of one part of vinegar and two parts of warm water. Dip the fingernails in the mixture for at least ten minutes, then rinse the hands and dry them well. To see good results, you need to repeat the process three times a week for three to four weeks. Remember that vinegar might be harsh on the skin so if you notice any signs of redness or itching after the first treatment, dilute vinegar in a bigger amount of water to make it more suitable for your sensitive skin.
If you suspect that the white marks on your fingernails might be caused by the fungus, garlic treatment may be your best bet. Garlic works like a natural antibiotic and has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. You can use garlic cloves, cut them in half and rub them onto the fingernails, then leave the garlic juice on the nails to dry and rinse it off after 15 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can apply garlic oil that will additionally soak into the nails and nourish them. It’s also recommendable to increase the intake of garlic or garlic supplements in case of a possible fungal infection.
Another natural product that may help remove white spots on the fingernails as well as nourish and brighten them is lemon juice. It has antiseptic properties and contains a high level of vitamin C. As we mentioned before, deficiency of this vitamin is one of the possible reasons of white spots occurrence. Cut a slice of lemon and rub the inside part on all the fingernails. Leave the lemon juice on to dry and rinse off with warm water after 20 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can use lemon essential oil and rub it into the fingernails before bedtime. Since it might be a bit harsh on the skin, dilute it with a few drops of olive oil. Continue the treatment for five to six weeks. You should see satisfying results long before that, but it’s worth to give your nails a boost of vitamin C in order to prevent re-occurrence of white spots.
Soaking your fingernails in natural yogurt is also a very effective method of removing white spots on fingernails since it gives them a boost of proteins. You should only use natural, unsweetened yoghurt for this treatment. Put three tablespoons of yoghurt into a small bowl. You can add a few drops of vitamin E oil or lemon juice and mix it. Dip the fingernails in the yogurt and keep them in for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse your fingers with warm water and dry them well to avoid the development of fungus. For best results, finish the treatment off with a nourishing hand cream and repeat it daily for a month.
When To See The Doctor
If none of the above-mentioned remedies works, the underlying problem causing the white spots might be something that affects other aspects of your health, too. That is why even though the white spots on fingernails might seem too petty to consult the doctor about them, you should definitely do it. Otherwise, you risk developing a condition that will take much longer to heal than small spots on your fingernails. If the marks become bigger or if your nails become very weak and flaky, it might be a sign of a serious deficiency of vitamins and minerals.