The Surprising Reason Why Your Nails Are Yellow & How To Combat It

Illustrated by Olivia Santner
Dear Daniela,

Why are my nails always yellow? I don't smoke but my fingernails always have a tinge to them. Is it my nail polish? My diet? How can I stop it from happening?

Monira, 30
This is a brilliant question and I'm glad you asked because, truthfully, I had no idea myself. I've noticed it from time to time but assumed it was just one of those occasional things, or maybe even a genetic predisposition, so I'm grateful that you gave me a chance to learn something new! In your note, you asked whether it's nail polish or diet – turns out, it's kind of both.
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If eyes are the window to the soul, nails are the window to your internal health. All kinds of deficiencies, autoimmune conditions and other ailments can present on the nails in the form of discolouration, ridges and marks. I don't know if you've ever needed surgery but they always ask you to remove your nail polish beforehand – partly for checking your blood pressure on your finger but also to check how your body is responding post-surgery. Fun facts! 
Anyway, yellowness. I asked Tinu Bello, founder of Colour Riot Nails and an expert nail technician, for her take. "My first thought would be that they're doing their own nails and not using a base coat," said Tinu. That's right – base coat isn't just a sales spiel. "What's happening is that the polish is actually tinting their nails and when they leave the polish on for too long, the pigments from that polish tend to go yellow and stain the nail, even if it's not a yellow polish. Base coat stops that from happening."
Basically, the base coat protects the nail and the top coat protects the colour. "If you're not using a base coat as a barrier to protect your nail from the polish, it can lead to this kind of discolouration. The stronger the nail polish colour, the more likely it is to happen," explained Tinu, noting that dark reds, blues and black are the worst offenders. And how long is too long to leave polish on? Tinu's answer surprised me: she said one week for regular polish and two to three weeks for gel nail polish. "Any longer than that, you're going to get staining," she confirmed.

Aside from manicure habits – and maybe you don't wear nail polish much – it could be something to speak to your GP about. "There are a range of underlying health conditions it could be, like anaemia, so I would suggest a visit to your doctor just to rule out anything serious," advised Tinu, adding that the same goes for spots and ridges
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Once you've got to the root of the issue, you'll probably be keen to remove the residual staining. Tinu said you might have to wait for it to grow out (but if you've worked out what has caused it, at least you'll know the end is in sight) but that a professional manicure, complete with in-depth buffing and tidying can work wonders. There are some home remedies floating around out there but Tinu said she hadn't seen great success with them. 
"Your best bet is to get a proper manicure, get as much buffed away as you can, and then choose a strong colour for the polish to conceal the discolouration – anything opaque will work. Just don't skip the base coat!" Tinu's favourite base coat is Orly Bonder Base Coat, which is also vegan and cruelty-free.
I hope this helps, and I wish you happy, healthy nails!

Daniela 
Got a question for our resident beauty columnist Daniela Morosini? No problem, qualm or dilemma is too big, small or niche. Email deardaniela@refinery29.uk, including your name and age for a chance to have your question answered. All letters to 'Dear Daniela' become the property of Refinery29 and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

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