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Three Nail Myths: White Spots, Gelatin and Cuticles

By HERWriter
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From time to time everyone has had small white spots on their nails and wondered what caused them to appear, whether they were something to be worried about and what could be done to make them go away.

Myths #1: White Spots
White spots are caused by a calcium and/or zinc deficiency.
White spots are caused from eating too much mayonnaise.

Truth: White spots on the nails are called punctate leukonychia and are the result of some type of mild trauma or bump that occurred to the nail bed. Removing artificial nails roughly or too firm a manicure could cause a white spot for the same reason. The white spot appears about 6 weeks after the injury, making it hard to remember what might have injured the nail. It also takes approximately 6 months for a finger nail to grow out entirely so you notice the white spot for a long time.

Calcium deficiencies do not cause white spots though may contribute to brittle nails. A zinc deficiency is less likely because other more obvious symptoms would typically appear first. And eating too much mayonnaise is just silly.

If simple injuries to one’s nail can cause the appearances of white spots, then it is natural to wonder what could be done to strengthen our nails.

Myth # 2: Gelatin
Eating or soaking nails in gelatin will make nails stronger.

Truth: In 1890 when Knox gelatin was developed, Mr. Knox, being a smart salesman marketed gelatin as being good for nail growth since it was a source of protein and lack of protein was believed to contribute to poor nail growth. He promoted the image that because gelatin comes from cow’s hooves and they are very strong, your nails will be strong too if you use Knox gelatin. Gelatin is not a particularly good source of protein and in truth, many nail problems really come from lack of moisture, not a lack of protein.

Lack of moisture of our nails makes them susceptible to damage as they become dried and can split or become ragged. It is important to protect our nails from excess water exposure and harsh chemicals by wearing gloves and to use a moisturizer nightly for dry nails.

Myth #3: Cuticles
Pushing back or removing cuticles will allow the nail to grow longer and healthier because the cuticle is “holding” the nail back.

The cuticle acts as a protective barrier and pushing it back or cutting them can lead to infections especially if the tools being used by a manicurist have not been sufficiently sterilized. Take great care if pushing back the cuticle and gently use a wood orange stick that doesn’t risk cutting the cuticle.

Nail appearance can be an indicator of our body’s health but white spots are usually harmless, gelatin won’t help and cuticles should probably be left alone. If you notice your nails appearing different than you are used to with other discolorations in the nail or cuticle, seeing a dermatologist will be the best way to determine if there is a problem to be followed.





Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Add a Comment4 Comments


I love the boyfriend number equaling the white spots! I remember being told that white spots were from having been sick during that time period or an emotionally stressful event.

Zinc deficiencies are related to malnutrition from a variety of causes like malabsorption syndromes. A slew of other problems ie cognitive problems and organ problems occur so the occassional white spot is not supposed to indicate a zinc problem.

My mother kept plain Knox gelatin in the pantry as well to grow stronger nails. I think everyone back then believed it would help.

September 10, 2009 - 7:28pm

I had never heard of the mayonnaise myth! However, in my day, the gelatin myth was very prevalent and girls at school would argue whether plain gelatin or just eating Jello would be the most beneficial. Then came the revelation of the main ingredient in non-plant based gelatin and no one wanted to "eat horse hooves."

Interesting article, thanks!

September 10, 2009 - 6:57pm

Thank you for that post. I get white spots from time to time especially on my right hand. Now I know it had nothing to do with lack of zinc, but just that I use and knock the nails on my right hand more. Thanks for the heads up!

September 10, 2009 - 5:23pm

Good article. I think it's funny how many myths people can come up with for the white spots. When I was younger, the myth I heard the most was that each white spot was for every boyfriend you had. I had a friend who had LOTS of them...kinda made you wonder...

September 10, 2009 - 1:24pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.