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Something to Talk About: Beau’s Lines

by Michelle Pratt | September 27, 2016

Nails offer an extraordinary amount of information about what is happening inside the body. Characterized by horizontal ridges, Beau’s lines is one of those conditions that may appear on the nails to warn of problems. As a nail tech, you’re legally constrained from diagnosing a nail condition such as Beau’s lines, but with experience, you’ll likely be able to recognize the signs. When you do, discuss the client’s health history to determine whether to proceed with the appointment or wait for a doctor’s clearance. That conversation could go something like this:

You: How long have you had these horizontal ridges on your nails?

Client: I don’t know! I only noticed them a little while ago. What do you think it is?

You: I can’t make that call; the only way to know for sure is to talk with a doctor. However, I can tell you this: Other than the horizontal lines and grooves, your nails look healthy. The skin isn’t broken. Your nails aren’t discolored, peeling, or soft. Also, the ridges are all in the same place on each nail when they are present. This is typical of Beau’s lines, a condition named after a physician who was one of the first to identify the relationship between systemic health problems and nail conditions. That means the body suffers a trauma — either internally or externally — and a sign of that trauma is visible on the nails.

Client: What do you mean by trauma? Are you saying I had an accident?

You: Well, Beau’s lines can appear because of an external physical trauma, like a hammer hitting the nail, but since you have lines in the same place on multiple fingers and toes, it’s likely the Beau’s lines are a result of a systemic problem. That could mean a vitamin deficiency or you may have had a really high fever a few months ago. It can also be the result of a heart attack or chemotherapy.  Actually, it doesn’t have to be a “negative” trauma. Beau’s lines have appeared on divers and climbers because of the change in altitude. They appear because whatever trauma happened caused an interruption in the production of nail cells for a particular period of time.

Client: Are they dangerous?

You: No. Beau’s lines themselves aren’t dangerous, but they warn us something is or was wrong in the body.  They also could indicate serious conditions like untreated diabetes or a heart problem.

Client: So what about today? Can I still have my nails done?

You: Yes. As a nail tech, I can improve the aesthetic appears of the nails and, since your nails are otherwise healthy, that’s what we are going to do today. I’ll be careful to make sure I prep the nail fully and apply the enhancement with care to avoid leaving an air pocket in that groove.

Eventually, the Beau’s lines will grow out as we shorten your nails. My advice is to schedule an appointment with your doctor if you see a new wave of Beau’s lines appear. In any case, it’s a good idea for you to make your doctor aware of them. It may be that you lack, or aren’t absorbing, certain essential vitamins. Let your doctor know we can remove the product from the nail plate if it will help to assess the nail without an enhancement.

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