My fingernails are curling under, how can I get them to stop?
July 22, 2013 10:42 AM   Subscribe

For as long as I can remember, I've had weak nails. The index and middle finger have always curled under after a bit. Now they're ALL curling under. Why? and What do I do?

So, I googled this, and the most I could find is that there's some kind of vitamin deficiency or I'm lacking oxygen, which is ironic because I'm taking more vitamins NOW than I ever have in my life, including iron and niacin, and I started taking Advair about three months ago, so I shouldn't be lacking oxygen at all.

But here's the thing -- no matter what I've tried, nail strengthening vitamins, nail strengthening polish, nail strengthening lotions... I've tried them all, and yes, I gave them all months and months to work, my nails have always been thin and weak. They grow to a nice, small length then they break or split so I cut them and start again. My pinky nails are generally stronger than the rest. But the last few weeks, all of my nails, including the pinky have started to curl under (it looks like someone has pushed them down in the center of the nail. Here're some pictures) right after the edge of the finger.

Now, I don't really care how my nails look (as you can see by the pictures), I'm not one to polish and decorate my nails. Too much hassle and too much bother. But this curling under business puts sharp corners on each nail and they catch on everything, and though my nails are thin, they're sharp little buggers, so these little corners poke, cut, and snag. I've tried keeping them trimmed below the edge of the finger, but they're growing pretty quickly too, and not all at the same rate. *sigh*

So here's my question(s). Other than vitamin or oxygen deficiency, what could be causing this? Other than keeping my nails cut below the fingertip, is there anything I can do about it? and... should I show this to my doctor the next time I see here (August 8)?

posted by patheral to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have had this problem. It's really strange!

I think, but it's really hard to say because there are so many variables, that what stopped my nails from curling is filing them to be almond shaped, and keeping them painted all the time with layers of nail polish (typically one base coat, 2 coats color, 1 coat heavy duty top coat like Seche Vite.) This requires doing a home manicure like once a week, which I enjoy enough to be worthwhile but I also understand that you're not one to put that much effort into your nails.

Wearing rubber kitchen gloves while doing the dishes and other chores helps too - water is bad for nails, it makes them weak.

I think your only other option is to just keep them super short.

Nails are weird. My diet doesn't change all that much but mine have over the years sometimes curled, sometimes been amazing and long and strong, and currently are peeling in layers (hooray). Anyone who claims to know definitively what causes these things is, IMO, lying or trying to sell you something.
posted by misskaz at 11:00 AM on July 22, 2013

Anecdata: mine improved HUGELY when I started taking calcium and extra vitamin D3 (which I started taking for bone health, not for nails.) So there's that, but also I have heard that a lot of this is genetic :(
posted by small_ruminant at 11:00 AM on July 22, 2013

Also, I don't put anything on them. Nail polish and especially polish remover definitely makes mine worse over time, though it's great at the moment.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:01 AM on July 22, 2013

What sort of search terms did you use?
posted by annsunny at 11:06 AM on July 22, 2013

I've had this all my life! I noticed that if I clench my fist, the nails look like they're bending where they meet my palm. No idea if I'm simply doing something in my sleep, but several thick layers of polish have been helpful. I've given up keeping them long enough where this is really obvious though.

You might as well bring it up with your doc in case there's something out there you haven't tried yet, but I'm willing to blame this on genetics.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 11:10 AM on July 22, 2013

Definitely show it to your doctor - nail condition can sometimes be an indicator of broader health issues.

I've noticed a massive improvement in my own nails' strength since beginning regular supplementation with D3 and folic acid. Might want to try that combo - it certainly can't hurt!
posted by artemisia at 11:15 AM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Absolutely bring it to your doctor's attention. Nail changes can be an important indicator of certain health conditions.

Vitamin D and calcium seem to have been very helpful for me, too.
posted by Corvid at 11:44 AM on July 22, 2013

Response by poster: Corvid & artemisa - someone owes someone a coke. :)

annsunny, I tried every version of "(finger)nail" "curl" (or bend) and "down" (or under) that I could think of when searching.

I'm already taking extra vitamin D at my doctor's request... for energy. Not that it's working, but yeah. There's calcium in the multivitamin that I'm taking, and I'm prone to kidney stones, so I don't want to take too much of that.

I'll show my doctor next time I see her and try and keep up with clipping them I guess.
posted by patheral at 11:52 AM on July 22, 2013

My doctor was aware of the problem, but had no helpful suggestions. I begrudge the time it takes to emery board a pointer here, a thumb there. If it is any consolation, long nails (claws) are definitely out of fashion. If you view the pictures from e.g., Academy Awards or similar dress up occasions, you will note that the stars have short, polished nails. Better for texting?
posted by Cranberry at 11:57 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, I found this at searching for health indications from fingernails. IBS is listed as one of the causes of clubbing, along with Cardio, lung, and liver issues. That may not mean too much since you already had a tendency for your nails to curl under.

That search turned up quite a few links, but most of the cites went back to either Mayo clininc or WebMD, FWIW.

All of the sites I looked at mentioned that if there is a change in your nails, you should consult with a doctor.
posted by annsunny at 12:05 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you put your fingers in your mouth? I have heard that saliva has some [enzyme/protein/whatever] that breaks down finger nails, leaving them weak and flimsy. So no nibbling or sucking!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:59 PM on July 22, 2013

I have heard that eating more protein will strengthen nails and make them straight, but I don't know if this is actually true.
posted by seasparrow at 3:31 PM on July 22, 2013

Try eating like three eggs every morning if you think it's a protein deficiency. It's a good source of protein, and an easier habit to maintain than taking supplements because supplements don't satiate you.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:30 PM on July 22, 2013

You mention taking advair--are you asthmatic or do you have another chronic lung disorder? I've had severe asthma my whole life and as a result my nailbeds are clubbed like that. Mine don't curl under exactly--they actually kind of go upward if I grow them past fingertip-length--but the end result is the same.
I've never had any success with anything except keeping them rather short and filed. All the vitamins and strengthening polishes in the world just make them grow faster and stronger, but the shape is still wrong. Gel manicures help a little.
posted by assenav at 10:41 PM on July 22, 2013

Response by poster: I am asthmatic. However, I've only had asthma since 1997. I've only had thyroid problems since 2012, and I've had fibromyalgia since 2007.

My nails have been weak and thin forever and the nails on my index and middle finger have always curved under, but not quite this much. It's been going on for as long as I can remember. Well, since my teens anyway. It's only been in the past fews weeks that all of them have started curling under and so dramatically.
posted by patheral at 11:09 AM on July 23, 2013

Another thought: Have you changed medications, in a time span that would correspond?
posted by annsunny at 12:53 PM on July 23, 2013

Another thin- and weak-nailed person here. Noting your comment about not wanting to take too much calcium, I can only share what changed the state of my nails. I quit using all nail polish products as that made both fingernails and toenails worse. I never, ever, wash or wipe or do anything with water or any cleaning products unless I wear rubber gloves (except when I wash my face!). I take a cal-mag-zinc tablet every day. And since I was diagnosed with anemia, I started taking iron supplements (with dinner!) and that has brought about the biggest change in my nails!
posted by Lynsey at 1:29 PM on July 23, 2013

For me biotin made a big difference! I already was taking calcium and vitamin D. I added 10000 mcg of biotin to my supplements. (I'm going to cut back to 5000 mcg but since it is a water soluble vitamin I wasn't worried about taking too much.) As long as I can remember my nails have been weak and prone to tearing and splitting. Now my nails are strong! Also I try to remember to push back the cuticles and massage them once in a while. Best of luck!
posted by goodsearch at 3:01 PM on July 23, 2013

Response by poster: I've tried the gel stuff on my nails, and it just flakes off, like fake nails pop right off. *sigh* I showed my nails to my doctor and she made note of them and said to give the thyroid meds some time to work. If they don't start strengthening up in a couple of months, we'll look again. The thyroid meds I'm on now are working better than the ones I was on before, so I'll keep an eye on it. It's just so annoying because they bend back (which hurts!) and peel off (which also hurts), now with the curling under, they're catching on everything and peeling off more than ever. It's a PITA.
posted by patheral at 6:10 PM on August 25, 2013

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