Your nails show your age. Here’s what to do about it.

When most people think of aging, they think of loose skin, brittle hair, and brittle bones, but there’s one more thing to add to the list, and that goes for your nails.

Over time, you may have noticed changes in the texture, thickness, strength, and even growth rate of your nails. According to experts, this is completely normal, and most people experience age-related nail changes by the age of 40. While these side effects of aging are inevitable, there are many things you can do to manage them.

We reached out to experts to learn about the different ways our nails change as we get older, as well as tips on how to deal with them.

Texture and thickness of nails

Notice the grooves on your nails? In medicine, this is called onychorrhexis and looks like wrinkles on the nails.

“When parts of the nail growth plate (also called the nail matrix) thin out and begin to atrophy, the result is striations (parallel longitudinal depressions in the nail plate),” he said. Dr. Dana SternAssociate Professor of Clinical Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

A number of factors may contribute onychorrhexis, including nutritional deficiencies and hormonal changes, but age is another factor.

Giuseppe Elio Cammarata via Getty Images

Grooves commonly appear under the nails with age, known as onychorrhexis.

According to Dr. Michelle Henry, founder of Skin and Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan, our nails can become brittle over time, too. This is largely due to the degradation of the structural keratin proteins in our nails, which play an important role in the health of our nails and protect them from external damage.

“As we age, our body begins to produce less of the naturally occurring proteins found in nails, which can cause nails to become more brittle, dry, and prone to breakage,” Henry said. “These keratin proteins are also found in our hair follicles, so we can also see the texture of our hair change as we age.” Moreover, if you have a family history of brittle nails, one study found that you are more likely to get brittle nails.

Nail growth rate and yellowing

If you’ve taken your nail polish off and found that your natural nails are turning yellow, know that this is most likely due to slower growth.

“Handnails grow an average of 3.47mm per month, which means it takes six months on average to replace a toenail,” Stern said. “As our nail growth rate slows, nails are exposed to significantly more environmental stresses, and these environmental stresses can affect the color, overall appearance, and strength of our nails over time.” Other common causes of yellowing include fungal infections and long-term polishing, Stern added.

Why does nail growth slow down with age? Henry said that this is due to the fact that our body produces less keratin proteins. “When less keratin is produced, our nails naturally begin to lose their strength and structural integrity, which can lead to thinning and discoloration,” she said.

Other nail changes

The often overlooked change in the nails has to do with the cuticle. Cuticles act as the nail’s natural protective covering, and when torn and dehydrated, they can separate and lift, resulting in burrs and holes through which organisms and water can enter the nail unit, Stern said. Not only can this lead to infection, but when combined with other changes in nail texture and thickness, it can accentuate these age-related changes. Ultimately, healthy cuticles can make nails look younger.

Finally, according to Stern, onycholysis, a condition in which the nail pulls away from the underlying nail bed, is one of the most common age-related nail changes. “The slightest trauma, such as overly vigorous scraping under the nail with a tool, can cause the nail to come off the nail bed,” Stern said. Over time and as you age, your nails may not be as firmly attached to the nail beds.

Something As Seemingly Harmless As Washing Dishes Can Cause The Nail Bed To Swell And Lead To Infection.

Katherine Falls promotional video via Getty Images

Something as seemingly harmless as washing dishes can cause the nail bed to swell and lead to infection.

How to deal with aging nails

There are several things you can do to help with aging nails. First, develop a routine for your cuticles to keep them hydrated and groomed. Stern recommended gently pushing them back with a washcloth after a shower or bath, as well as moisturizing them daily with oils or ointments (compared to creams, which tend not to absorb as effectively, she said). If you have hangnails, resist the urge to bite or rip them off, but instead use a clean cuticle nipper and cut them off at the base. When it comes to using nail polish remover, look for moisturizing formulas without acetone.cetone can dehydrate and weaken the nail and surrounding area.

Also pay attention to the nail file you are using. Stern advised using a glass file instead of a cardboard sanding pad, as this can cause microscopic tears at the tip of the nail, which can turn into splits and breakage. Glass files, on the other hand, create a perfectly even edge. And be sure to replace the blunt nail clippers as Stern said the old ones can lead to splits and snags.

You also have to consider the amount of water that gets on your nails. “Nails are extremely absorbent of water (even more so than skin) – when water is constantly getting in and out of the nail, it puts a huge strain on the delicate cells of the nail, which can lead to weakening, softening, and breakage,” Stern explained. . Not to mention, this can dehydrate your cuticles and cause them to lift and separate, which can lead to nicks or holes that infections can more easily enter. Good decision? Wear protective gloves when washing dishes, cleaning the house or gardening.

Finally, Stern said that if you’re experiencing sudden nail changes, see a board-certified dermatologist, as this could be a sign of an internal illness.

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