Have you ever noticed dark black or brown lines running vertically on your nails? These lines and bands, known as melanonychia, are quite common and can occur due to a variety of reasons. While in some cases these lines may be harmless, sometimes they could signal an underlying medical condition that requires attention.
In this post, I’ll go over the various causes of black lines on nails and provide some simple natural remedies you can try at home to get rid of these unsightly marks. I’ll also share some prevention tips to avoid the recurrence of black lines on your nails.
What Causes Black Lines on Nails?
There are several potential causes for the appearance of vertical black or brown lines on nails:
Injuries and trauma to the nail bed can commonly cause melanonychia. Excessive nail biting, aggressive filing of nails, jerking or pulling of the nails, and hitting or crushing injuries can damage the nail matrix where new nail cells are produced. This disruption in nail growth results in the development of black-brown pigmented bands.
Lack of certain vitamins and minerals in your diet can also manifest as dark nail discoloration. Deficiencies in vitamin B12, folate, iron, zinc, calcium and selenium are often associated with melanonychia. Make sure your diet includes plenty of nutrient-rich foods or dietary supplements to prevent deficiency-related nail pigmentation.
Various medical problems like diabetes, endocarditis, melanoma, kidney and liver disorders can cause black lines on nails. The pigmentation occurs due to accumulation of byproducts in the blood due to poor health. Consult your doctor to diagnose and control any underlying condition that may be contributing to the nail pigmentation.
Different types of infections, including viral, bacterial and fungal, affecting the nail bed can also cause dark streaks on nails. For instance, onychomycosis or nail fungus leads to yellow nail discoloration along with nail damage. Get proper diagnosis and medical treatment for any infection.
Certain medications like chemotherapeutic drugs, antimalarials, anticonvulsants and retinoids contain chemicals that may deposit in growing nail cells leading to longitudinal melanonychia. Check with your doctor if any prescribed medications are causing the pigmented lines.
Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Black Lines on Nails
If the cause of your dark nail lines is from trauma, nutritional deficiency or infection, try these simple natural remedies to help fade the bands over time:
Apply Nail Hardeners
Special nail hardening solutions containing formaldehyde, calcium, nylon or methacrylate can help strengthen soft, brittle nails and improve minor discoloration. Brush on the hardener regularly according to directions to reinforce your nails.
Natural oils like coconut, olive and almond oils contain fatty acids and vitamins A, D, E that help moisturize and nourish nail beds and cuticles. Gently massage your nails daily with oil to improve nail and skin health.
Try Lemon Juice
Lemon juice acts as a natural bleaching agent and its vitamin C speeds up nail growth. Dip a cotton ball in fresh lemon juice and dab it on the pigmented nails twice a day. When new healthy nails grow out, the lines will go away.
Use Apple Cider Vinegar
The antimicrobial and antifungal properties in apple cider vinegar help treat nail infections that cause dark lines. Mix equal parts vinegar and water and soak nails for 10-15 minutes daily for quick results.
Apply Tea Tree Oil
With its potent anti-fungal and healing powers, tea tree oil helps eliminate stubborn nail fungus infections. Use a cotton swab to gently apply undiluted tea tree oil over affected nails daily.
Biotin or vitamin B7 aids keratin production needed for generation of tough nail cells. Take 2.5mg biotin supplement daily to repair nail damage and encourage healthy new growth.
Follow a Healthy Diet
Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins A, B, C, D, E, iron, calcium, zinc and selenium to avoid nutritional deficiencies that can manifest as nail pigmentation. Include leafy greens, dairy, citrus fruits, eggs, nuts and lean meats in your daily meals.
Keep your body and nails hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water daily. Dehydration can lead to brittle, discolored nails while proper hydration promotes nail health.
Prevention Tips to Avoid Black Lines on Nails
Along with home remedies, follow these nail care tips to avoid recurrence of dark vertical lines on your nails:
- Wear rubber gloves when doing household chores involving chemicals and detergents to prevent nail bed injuries.
- Avoid excessive filing, shaping, cutting or trimming of your nails which can damage the nail matrix.
- Keep nails trimmed to prevent accidental snagging and tearing which can discolor nails.
- Moisturize nails and cuticles daily with a rich cream or petroleum jelly to prevent cracking and keep nails flexible.
- Manage any underlying medical conditions like diabetes, kidney disease etc through medications and lifestyle changes for healthy nails.
In most cases, black or brown bands on nails are harmless and can be treated using simple home remedies. Make sure to moisturize nails, use oils and nail hardeners and take care to avoid trauma. For persistent cases, anti-fungal medication or medical treatment may be required based on the underlying cause.
Implementing good nail hygiene practices, using protective gloves and keeping nails trimmed can help avoid recurring nail pigmentation. However, if the bands keep worsening or you notice other nail changes like new moons, streaks, or nails separating from beds, do see a dermatologist promptly for proper evaluation.