Changes to fingernails and toenails happen as we age.

Sometimes nails are not a sexy topic like highlighting the next color trend, but rather what happens to them as we get older. We are all too aware of the signs of aging, making our skin look thinner, paler, and more translucent. But let’s file it down to the nitty-gritty and learn about how our nails change over time and what methods we can use to maintain their shine, strength, and beauty!

As we age, our nails can:

  • Grow more slowly 
  • Become dull and brittle
  • Become yellowed and opaque  
  • Become hard and thick (especially toenails)
  • Experience ingrown toenails 
  • Break more often 
  • Develop lengthwise ridges

Our nails can tell a lot about our internal health, so if you notice any severe or sudden changes, such as discoloration, pits, ridges, or changes in shape, speak with your doctor. These can be related to a nutritional deficiency, iron deficiency, or kidney disease.

You may notice that traumatic grooming practices like gel or acrylic manicures that didn’t bother you in your twenties may now cause your nails to break and hurt. This is because your nail plate adheres less firmly to the nail bed as we enter our forties.

It’s easy to neglect your nails — but taking some basic steps can keep your fingernails healthy and strong. Below are a few tips to keep your fingernails and toenails looking their best:


  • Keep fingernails dry and clean. This prevents bacteria from growing under your fingernails. Repeated or prolonged contact with water can contribute to split fingernails. Wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when washing dishes, cleaning, or using harsh chemicals.
  • Practice good nail hygiene. Use sharp manicure scissors or clippers. Trim your nails straight across, then round the tips in a gentle curve. To note: Toenails should be cut straight across instead of on a curve to prevent the formation of ingrown nails.
  • Use moisturizer. When you use hand lotion, rub the lotion into your fingernails, toenails, and cuticles, too.
  • Apply a protective layer. Applying a nail hardener might help strengthen nails.
  • Go natural with your nails. Opt for more natural products and services that don’t contain harsh chemicals.
  • Ask your doctor about biotin. Some research suggests that the nutritional supplement biotin might help strengthen weak or brittle fingernails.


  • Ask the manicurist to 86 cleaning under the nail. Onycholysis (when the nail lifts off the nail bed) can result from cleaning aggressively under than nail.
  • Only go to licensed nail salons. Salons should display a current state license and work only with technicians certified by the state board.
  • Do not have your cuticles removed. Cuticles seal the skin to the nail plate so that removal can lead to nail infection. 
  • Make sure your nail technician properly sterilizes all tools. If they work with dirty instruments, it may spread infection.
  • Ensure the foot baths are adequately cleaned. Ideally, a bleach solution should be used between clients, and the filters should be cleaned regularly.

A swipe of polish is not the cure for happy nails. Good nutrition, proper nail hygiene, and maintenance using natural products can keep your nails healthy and preened.


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