Your nails are more porous than your skin, so they are vulnerable to environmental pressure, such as detergents. But nails are also dependent on your nutritional intake to remain strong and grow smoothly. So if your nails become weak or discoloured, it could be a sign of vitamin or mineral deficiency.

Here are the top six signals from your nails that you are running low on essential vitamins or minerals.

Nail Biting

Nails are a natural depository of minerals, so if you are compulsively biting your nails, you could be low in nutrients and turning to the closest source! Rather than rely on your nails for you nutritional needs, expand the range of fresh foods in your diet, or try a supplement of Vitamin C, zinc or B-complex vitamins.

White Spots

If you consistently see white flecks (or leukonychia) on your nails, this could indicate that you are low in zinc or Vitamin C, as both these nutrients protect your body from free radicals. The B-complex vitamins, particularly B6 and B12, help strengthen your nails which will prevent white spots caused by trauma to the nail.

Brittle Nails

If your nails are fragile and peeling, and you have ruled out environmental trauma, you could be lacking in iron. Iron is essential to manufacture haemoglobin, which generates the oxygen necessary for nails to strengthen and grow. As Vitamin A is necessary to transport iron around the body, a Vitamin A deficiency can also lead to weak, brittle nails. Zinc is another important nutrient for strengthening nails.

Horizontal Ridges

Ridges running across the nail are a clear indication of nutrient deficiency. The B-complex vitamins are essential for growth of the nail, so lack of any of these vitamins will flaw the nail’s growth, leading to ridges. An iron deficiency can cause horizontal ridges accompanied by white flecks on the nails.

Beau’s Lines

These indented ridges running horizontally across the nail usually indicate there was a temporary interruption to the nail’s natural cell division. This interruption might have been caused by trauma, such as physical injury or chemotherapy treatment. Beau’s Lines are not always directly caused by nutritional deficiency; however, if they are resulting from long-term illness, extra nutrients could be beneficial for overall health.

Spoon Nails

With this extreme condition, the softened nails are raised at the edges to make a spoon shape. The nail can scoop up enough to hold a small level of liquid. Spoon nails (or koilonychia) usually result from anaemia (iron deficiency) in relation to conditions such as heart disease or hypothyroidism.

Vertical Ridges

Don’t panic! Vertical lines, running parallel from the base to the tip of the nail are normal and healthy. They will become more prominent with age.