As professional nail techs, it's our duty to not only provide exceptional nail care services but also to educate our clients about their nail health. One common condition that clients may ask about is leukonychia, often identified by the appearance of white spots or lines on the nails. Understanding leukonychia, its causes, and prevention methods can help us offer better advice and services to our clients.

What is Leukonychia?

Leukonychia, derived from the Greek words "leuko" (white) and "onyx" (nail), refers to the white discoloration that appears on the nails. This condition can manifest in various forms:
  • Leukonychia punctata: Small white spots on the nails.
  • Leukonychia striata: White lines that run across the nail.
  • Leukonychia totalis: The entire nail turns white.

Causes and Prevention of Leukonychia

Leukonychia can arise from a variety of factors, including:

Trauma: The most common cause is trauma or injury to the nail matrix. Even minor injuries from everyday activities or aggressive manicuring can lead to these white spots or lines. Clients who pick off their gel polish overlays will often be long term sufferers of leukonychia.

Prevention: Encourage your clients to wear gloves when gardening or other activities where nails may be knocked or trapped. Advise them to book in for regular gel manicures, this will help you to keep track of their nail health but gel overlays will also help to protect nails from external damage. Educate them that picking off their gel polish overlays will not only cause leukonychia but will also cause permanent damage to the nail plate. Take lots of care during both your prep and removal process to avoid over filing and buffing of the nail which can lead to leukonychia.

Nutritional Deficiencies: Deficiencies in certain nutrients, such as zinc or calcium, have been associated with leukonychia. 

Prevention: Daily intake of a good quality zinc and calcium supplements can help to prevent leukonychia. 8mg of zinc and 1000mg of calcium is the recommended daily intake for adult women. 

Allergic Reactions: Allergies to nail products, household chemicals, sanitisers and some cosmetics can lead to leukonychia. While Leukonychia generally presents itself without pain and irritation, white spots coupled with discomfort could indicate a reaction. Leukonychia Totalis where the entire or large portion of the nail turns white is most commonly coupled with an allergic reaction of some kind. 

Prevention: Try switching your client to a hypoallergenic product such a FLEX & BOOST which is free from the main allergens associated with gel polish. If leukonychia persists, it might be time for your client to seek out an allergy test from a dermatologist to determine which chemicals they are allergic to.

Systemic Conditions: Although rare, systemic health issues such as liver disease, kidney disease, or other systemic infections can cause leukonychia.

Prevention: While systemic conditions are outside of our remit as beauty professionals, it’s worth advising your client that if they are experiencing any other physical symptoms such as abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin and tiredness, they should contact their GP to discuss further.

Common Misconceptions

There are several misconceptions about what causes leukonychia. It's important to address these to help clients understand the real factors at play:

  1. Myth: White spots are caused by a lack of calcium.
    • Reality: While calcium is essential for nail health, white spots are more commonly caused by minor trauma to the nail matrix rather than a calcium deficiency.
  2. Myth: White spots indicate a severe health problem.
    • Reality: In most cases, leukonychia is harmless and results from minor injuries or cosmetic reactions. However, if the condition persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, it may warrant further medical investigation.
  3. Myth: White spots will spread if not treated.
    • Reality: Leukonychia does not spread. The white spots or lines will grow out with the nail over time.

July 09, 2024 — TEAM TWENTY™

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