Onychauxis, which is the medical term for an overgrowth or thickening of the nail, reveals nothing to the casual observer, the tech, or the doctor. Many times, in fact, onychauxis is a natural part of aging. It is easy to see how a client or a tech could overlook the condition as harmless and treat it as little more than an unsightly growth of the nail. However, onychauxis can be a secondary symptom of a larger problem, so it shouldn’t be dismissed too easily.

Onychauxis can be caused by something as memorable as blunt trauma or as innocuous as microtrauma (from tight shoes, for example). However, onychauxis can also be caused from more serious issues that affect the nail bed and skin. “Fungus, yeast, and psoriasis can all be present on the nail, the nail bed, or on the skin surrounding the nail, all of which will thicken the nail plate,” says Dr. S. A. Schumacher, a podiatrist at Achilles Foot Health Centre, in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. Onychauxis may also indicate a more serious, systemic problem, such as diminished circulation, though this is the least likely cause, says Dr. Schumacher. Since skin issues like the ones mentioned above almost always cause the nail to thicken, they must be treated before trying to beautify a nail distorted from onychauxis.