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Health

Do our nails "peak" at age 20?

October 26, 2011 | Bookmark +

I heard that nails “peak” at age 20 in terms of health, strength, and growth rate and that by the time we hit 40, our nails grow at about half the rate they used to grow at our prime. Is that true?

Answer

Nail growth rates do tend to decrease as we age and studies have shown statistically significant differences in growth rates before and after age 40. Anyone who has cared for young children has observed how much more frequently their nails require cutting. As we age and our nail growth rates slow, our nails are exposed to considerably more environmental influences and these exposures over time can affect the overall appearance and strength of our nails. In a normal-appearing nail, growth rates are not an index of personal health.  

— Dana Stern, M.D. is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in nails. She works in private practice in New York City.

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What’s the cause of the pinkish-red oval area on the pad of my client’s toes?

I have a client who has a recurring problem with her fourth toes during the winter months. Both of her “ring finger” toes develop a pinkish-red oval area on the pad. Then a month later, when I see her again, the skin has become dry and hard like a callus, with the layers of skin peeling away to reveal a deeper, dark epicenter.  It’s extremely painful for her and, needless to say, we do not touch it. But it clears up in the summer when she’s wearing open-toed sandals, so I suspect it has to be due to the boots she wears in the winter. Plus she never puts lotion on her feet or uses a foot file in between visits. What do you think causes this?

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What are the big white spots on my natural-nail client’s nails?

I have a client who has been with me for about two years. She used to wear acrylic nails but has been a natural nail client for eight months or so. She has these white spots on her nails — big spots that are dry, but not flaky, right in the middle of the nail. I did try to buff them lightly but they do not come off or grow off. I had a new client come in last week who had the same on her toenails. She said it started after she had a pedicure done at another salon. Can you help?

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