Until you really think about it, you do not really realize how important your fingernails are. For pretty much everybody on the planet, their fingernails will play an important role in day to day life, and it is likely that you use them a lot more than you realize.
For many people, their fingernails are a thing that they can use to express themselves. You can paint your nails whatever color you want, and you can even get pretty designs added to them if you want.
But what a lot of people do not know is that your nails also play a pretty big part in telling whether, or not, you are healthy.
While there are other factors that can influence the appearance of your nails, aside from your overall health, a simple glance at your fingernails can tell you a lot. Especially if your fingernails are clear when you glance at them.
But what are clear fingernails? And are they a bad thing? We’ll be taking a look at everything that you need to know about these in this guide. So to find out more, keep on reading.
What Are Clear Fingernails?
First things first, let’s take a look at what clear fingernails are. As the name suggests, clear fingernails are fingernails which have gone completely clear.
As you probably know, regular nails will be mostly clear, but they will come with white tips at the top of the nail. But, clear fingernails contain no white. Instead, the entire nail, tips included, will be clear in appearance.
A lot of the time, clear fingernails will not be permanent, and they are something that most people will experience frequently in their lives. That is because clear fingernails can be caused by lots of different things.
One of the main things being warm water.
If you check your fingernails after you have had a long soak in the bath, then you might be alarmed to find that they have transformed completely. When your fingernails get very wet, they become weaker and softer.
This is why a lot of people trim their nails after they have been in the bath. This weakness will often lead to the white tips disappearing temporarily.
But, this isn’t the only cause of clear fingernails, there are lots of things that can cause this, and we will take a deeper look at this a little later on. For now, let’s take a look at what white tips are.
What Are White Tips?
Well, unless you have been living under a rock for the past few centuries, you will probably know what white tips are. White tips are the white area that can be found at the top of your nails.
They have become synonymous with what fingernails should look like, and for many years, people have been having French manicures to enhance the natural white tips of their nails. But what are white tips?
What might come as a surprise to you is the fact that the white tips at the end of your nail are no different from the material that makes up the rest of your nails.
This will likely be a real shock because the white tips of your nail look so different to the clear pink color that makes up the rest of your nail.
Over the years, we have been socialized into believing that white tips are what a healthy nail should look like. This is mainly because of the popularity of French manicures and acrylic nails with white tips.
The popularity of these styles of nails have led us to believe that white tips are healthy, and clear nails are not. But is this the case? Let’s find out.
Are White Tips Healthy?
Prepare to be shocked, because white tips are not healthy. Even though this style of nail is incredibly sought after, white tips are actually very unhealthy. Regardless of whether your nails have always looked like this.
When you first notice that your entire nail has gone clear, then it can be rather alarming. But clear fingernails should actually be desirable because clear fingernails are healthy.
These fingernails are able to appear entirely clear because they are well-hydrated by moisture and body oils. In contrast, fingernails with white tips have these white tips because the nails are drying out. The more the nails dry, the whiter they will appear.
So, no, white tips are not healthy. In fact, white tips are a clear sign that your fingernails are unhealthy. This can be more clearly explained by looking at the anatomy of the nail plate, so let’s take a quick look at that.
The Anatomy Of The Nail Plate
The nail plate is the official name given to the area of the nail that we simply refer to as the fingernail.
While different areas of this nail look slightly different from one another, the entire nail plate is actually made out of something known as translucent keratin protein. This material is supposed to be semi-transparent.
All the other things that you see within the nail plate are actually located beneath the nail plate. For example, the majority of the nail has a pink appearance because that is the color of the nail bed showing through the transparent nail plate.
As well as this pink area, some people will have a white half circle that shows at the bottom of their nail plate. This is known as the lunula, and it will not always be visible.
The keratin cells in your nail plate come from the lunula, and that is why this is the main area of the nail that shows a different color.
Once the cells pass the lunula, they die and this makes them become transparent, which is why the rest of your nail appears clear. The nail will then often turn white again once it passes the edge of your fingertips.
While these white tips can look nice, they are actually caused by your nails drying out, and are a sign that your fingers need to be rehydrated.
Are White Tips Common?
So, white tips aren’t healthy, but this doesn’t mean that they are uncommon. In fact, it is actually a lot more common for people to have white tips than clear fingernails, even though white tips are a sign that your nails are dry.
A lot of this is caused by people not being properly educated on how to hydrate their nails, but it is also influenced by the desire for white tips that so many people have.
However, the fact that white tips are so common can be slightly worrying as there are lots of health conditions linked with this. That is why it isn’t ideal that so many people think that white tips are normal.
White tips can be caused by things such as anemia, diabetes, and disease of the heart, kidneys, or liver. But, more commonly, they are caused by overuse of nail polish and poor nail care.
So, white tips are incredibly common because they are linked with lots of different conditions, and there are lots of things that cause them.
Part of the reason they are so common is also because people desire white tips on their nails. However, your genetics also play a big part in what color your nails are.
Some people will have nails that naturally get white tips, even without any clear cause for this. That is because everybody has a different number of layers that make up their nails.
If you have more layers of keratin, then it is more likely for your nails to become opaque, especially at the tips of the nails. Likewise, some people have nails that are made up of fewer layers, leading to them appearing clear more often.
But, aside from fewer layers of keratin in the nails, what else causes clear fingernails? Let’s take a look.
What Is The Main Cause Of Clear Nails?
When it comes to clear fingernails, there is one thing that is closely linked to this, and one thing that really causes your fingernails to turn completely clear. That thing is water.
Your nails will have white tips appear if they are dehydrated, but if your nails are too hydrated, then they will turn completely translucent.
While it is not ideal for fingernails to be dehydrated, it is also not ideal for fingernails to be overly hydrated either.
If you expose your fingernails to water for too long, then they will become overly exposed to liquid, and this can cause damage to your nails. This damage can occur because the nails become incredibly weak when they are overly-wet.
So, you might find that your nails become overly-flexible and tear easily when they get too wet.
This happens because nail plates are able to absorb a lot of water. In fact, a healthy nail plate can hold ⅓ of its own weight in water. When this water is absorbed it begins to fill the space around the keratin cells.
But, when too much water is absorbed, the water cells will begin to flatten the keratin cells, causing your nails to become incredibly weak and easy to break.
However, it is often impossible to avoid exposing your nails to water. After all, we are advised to wash our hands regularly throughout the day, and you have to get your hands wet when having a bath or shower, and doing the washing up.
Luckily, there are solutions that you can use to help avoid your nails becoming damaged by too much water. Let’s take a look at what they are.
The Best Solutions
It is impossible to avoid getting your fingernails wet. So, let’s take a look at some of the best solutions that will prevent your nails from becoming damaged by too much water.
Nail polish adds an extra barrier between your nails and the water, so it is very effective at protecting your nail plates from being exposed to too much water. If you aren’t a fan of colored nail polish, then clear nail polish will do the job just as well.
For the best protection, make sure that you cover the entire nail plate, otherwise your nail might still be affected.
If you want to put a physical barrier between your nails and the water, then using gloves is the best way. Of course, you won’t be able to wear gloves when washing your hands.
But, you can wear gloves when doing other tasks, such as washing dishes and doing heavy cleaning.
If you want to avoid doing any damage to your nails, it is important that you purchase the right gloves for the job. So, you will need rubber gloves when submerging your hands in water, and cotton gloves when using other cleaning products.
Wearing gloves not only protects your nails, but your hands too. So as well as avoiding your nails becoming too wet, you will also avoid the skin on your hands becoming too dry.
Finally, you can counter-combat the water that has been absorbed by your nails by using oils.
Sometimes it is unavoidable to get your hands wet, and when this is the case, oil is the best way to avoid your nails becoming damaged. In particular jojoba cuticle oils are excellent for this job.
To understand how oil is able to do the job so well, you have to understand that too much water will damage your nails. It will begin by making them too wet then it will dry your nails out.
That is because your nails should not be hydrated by water solely, instead they should be hydrated by natural oils.
When you apply oil to your nails it will ensure that the water does not dry out your nails. The most effective way to do this is to apply oil to your nails and allow them to rehydrate overnight.
When you wake up in the morning, you will often find that your white tips have re-appeared, but they will be semi-transparent. This is a sign of a healthy nail.
The Main Cause Of White Tips
Just as water is the main cause for clear fingernails, there is one thing that primarily causes white tips (and dryness in your nails). That one thing is nail polish remover.
As we have said, white tips are frequently caused by poor nail care, and the overuse of nail polish. But, something that also goes hand in hand with these things is the use of nail polish remover.
The most common type of nail polish remover that people use is acetone. This is because acetone is incredibly effective at removing even the toughest of nail polish. Unfortunately, acetone is also very driving.
So, when you use it on your nails, your nails will become more dry, and this will often lead to white tips.
There is a myth that if you use nail polish removers that do not have an acetone base, that your nails will not lose moisture. But sadly this isn’t the case.
All nail polish removers are incredibly drying (they have to be in order to do the job that they are designed for), so when you use nail polish remover, your nails will become dry in the process.
Thankfully, you can work with the nail polish remover to avoid any damage occurring to your nails. For example, you should wash your nails and scrub them for around 1 minute after using acetone to remove nail polish.
This will ensure that there is no acetone left on your nails. Then you should use a good quality nail oil to restore and rehydrate your nails.
If you do this, then the effects of the acetone/nail polish remover will be restricted, and this will reduce the chance of your nails forming opaque white tips.
So, when you first spot that your fingernails have gone clear, it is understandable that you might panic. After all, society has decided that white tips are the norm, so you might think that clear fingernails are a bad thing.
However, clear fingernails are actually a good thing as it means your nails are not dehydrated. But, it is possible to over-hydrate your nails. So, to avoid any of the negative effects of this, check out the guide above to find out how to protect your nails from water.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Clear Fingernails Healthy?
Generally speaking, yes, clear fingernails are healthy. As long as you do not over-hydrate your nails. If your nails are clear without being soaked in water, then this is a sign that your nails are well-hydrated with natural oils.
But, if your nails only become clear when they have been soaked in water, then your nails might be unhealthy as it is likely they only look like this because they are overly-hydrated.
Should I Use Oil On My Fingernails?
If you want to protect your nails from being affected by too much water, then yes you should use oil on your fingernails. The best way to do this is to apply oil to your fingernails before you go to bed.
This allows your nails to absorb the oil throughout the night, without day-to-day activities washing the oil away. But, it is important that you do not apply oil too regularly as this could damage your nails.
What Is The Difference Between Clear Fingernails And White Tips?
Clear fingernails and white tips are both normal appearances for both your fingernails and toenails. Clear fingernails are nails that are well-hydrated. However, fingernails can also take on a clear appearance if they are over-hydrated.
Whereas, white tips are a sign that your nails are dry and dehydrated. So, even though white tips are seen as desirable in society, they are actually a sign that something is wrong with your nails.
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