3 Reasons Your Nails Are Naturally Dark

Not everyone has perfectly healthy nails.

You're probably familiar with the type of nail discoloration that occurs when using dark nail polish. It can leave a tint behind even after diligent rubbing with nail polish remover. That type of staining is pretty straightforward and easy to fix with a nail primer. Sometimes even pristine nails can display unique hues, though. Unusual shading may be related to the skin under the nails. If you have darkish skin or are unusually pale, your nails may appear naturally darker or lighter. If you've just finished a workout and your blood is well oxygenated, your nails could look a darker or more vibrant shade of pink, too.

More often, nail color is a reflection of your lifestyle or overall health, though. Dark or discolored nails can be a warning sign of a vitamin deficiency or even of a medical condition you should address sooner rather than later. On the next pages, let's take a look some reasons you may have naturally dark nails.


3: You Have a Vitamin Deficiency

If you're a vegan, vegetarian or just prefer fruits and vegetables to meat most of the time, you may face a challenge getting enough protein into your diet. Animal products contain all the amino acids the body needs to maintain itself. Relying on other sources like nuts, grains, seeds and vegetables for nutrients is doable, but without some know-how and judicious monitoring, forgoing animal protein on a regular basis can lead to deficits.

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient present in animal products, but it's often harder to find in sufficient quantities from other sources. A B12 deficiency can cause dark nails or nails that tend to curve. It can also cause tiredness, light headedness, bleeding gums, constipation and other symptoms. Although gray or brownish nails are an indication of vitamin B12 deficiency, the dark coloration can also be a symptom of illness, particularly if the condition is recent or presents with thickened nails, concave nails or nails that are lifting from the nail bed. Yellowish nails can also be a symptom of a zinc or iron deficiency, too.


2: You're a Smoker

If you've been smoking for a while, you may be used to seeing yellow tobacco stains on your fingers. The yellow discoloration that occurs on your fingernails is something a little different. Some of the yellow may be coming from cigarette smoke wafting up your fingers from the ciggy in your hand. There's a more ominous cause, though. That yellow tint you see on your nails after months, years or even decades of smoking is the effect of reduced blood flow from inhaling cigarette smoke. The color is unsightly, but it's also an indication that your nails aren't receiving proper nutrition, which leaves them vulnerable to fungal infection.


1: You May Have a Medical Condition

painted nails
Get rid of the polish so your doctor can see exactly what is happening beneath the surface.

Just because you've had quirky, colorful nails for a while doesn't mean that bluish, brown, yellow or two-toned darkening is biologically normal for you. What you've come to expect as the regular appearance of your nails may actually be a subtle indication that you have a medical problem that needs attention. In fact, doctors will often inspect a patient's nails for symptoms of disease. It's true that a recent change in the appearance of your nails is a potential warning sign you should discuss with your doctor, but darkening that's been present for a long time can still be significant.

If you have a doctor's appointment coming up, avoid applying polish to your nails for a while, and ask your doctor to have a look at your naked nails. We don't want to alarm you here. Nail coloration (shape and density) can suggest illness, but one symptom, like nail color, can occur across a number of conditions, some minor and others major. If you think your nails may be trying to tell you something, listen to your digits and get a professional assessment.


Lots More Information

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  • Disabled World. "Fingernails Nail Color Health Indicators." 2/28/09. (8/27/12). http://www.disabled-world.com/health/dermatology/nails/nail-color.php
  • Mayo Clinic. "7 fingernail problems not to ignore." (8/27/12). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nails/WO00055&slide=1
  • Nail Care Tips. "Nail Facts." (8/27/12). http://www.nail-care-tips.com/interesting-nail-facts.php
  • Medscape. "Nail Abnormalities." (8/27/12). http://reference.medscape.com/features/slideshow/fingernail-abnormalities
  • Quit Smoking Dallas. "How Smoking Can Change One's Appearance." (8/27/12). http://blog.smu.edu/quitsmoking/2012/03/30/how-smoking-can-change-ones-appearance/
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  • Traub, Gabrielle. "Fingernails And What They Reveal." Hpathy. (8/27/12). http://hpathy.com/homeopathy-papers/fingernails-and-what-they-reveal/
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Nail Abnormalities." 8/27/12. (8/27/12). http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003247.htm
  • Women's and Children's Health Network. "Nails." 4/12/12. (8/27/12). http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=152&id=2486