Here's What Those White Spots on Your Nails Really Mean

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Remember being told at a young age that the little white spots on your nails meant that you weren't drinking enough milk? File that under "longstanding beauty myths debunked" because it turns out those marks have absolutely nothing to do with a lack of calcium.

Dermatologist Chris Adigun, MD, tells Women's Health that white spots are usually just a result of bumping your finger or nails on something, meaning the source is often trauma, not a deficiency. To get more technical, they're a result of minor injury to the matrix, according to nail expert Evelyn Lim, which is not visible to eye as it is located under the eponychium (or the thickened layer of skin at the base of the nail). As the nail grows, the spots become more apparent, usually in an oblong horizontal shape.

Conversely, you may notice some discoloration or whiteness along the surface of the nail (almost as if the nail is scuffed), but this is not the same as the white spotting mentioned above. Improper nail polish application, use, and removal can lead to this kind of damage since it wears down the surface of the nail. (Regular use of a nail-strengthening serum or base coat can help prevent this, as well as maintaining strong, healthy nails, says Lim.)

5 Nail-Strengthening Products Worth Clicking 'Add to Cart'

Since hard, hydrated nails play such a big role in whether or not those pesky little white dots will pop up between manicures, it's important to add a quality nail-strengthening product to your daily routine. Store it with your regular AM and PM skincare routine so that you remember to give your nails just as much love as your face, neck, and décolleté.

Olive & June Cuticle Serum
Olive & June Cuticle Serum $16

This hydrating cactus flower formula will breathe life back into dry cuticles and nails. Apply it daily to help your nails look their very best.

Nails Inc Nail Kale Superfood Base Coat
Nails Inc. NAILKALE Superfood Base Coat $15

This antioxidant-rich base coat is made with keratin and botanical extracts to nourish, strengthen, brighten, smooth, and hydrate nails. Using it regularly leads to longer, stronger nails that look glossy AF.

L'Occitane Cuticle Oil
L'Occitane Shea Nail And Cuticle Oil $19

Despite what the name might make you think, this nail and cuticle oil offers a nourishing dry finish that won't get in the way of your ability to use your fingers right away. Simply apply the shea butter and grape seed oil concoction around and on top of your nails for stronger, longer nails over time.

All About That Base - CC Nail Treatment Base Coat
Deborah Lippmann All About That Base CC Base Coat Correct & Conceal Nail Treatment $20

This tinted base coat works to strengthen, moisturize, prime, protect, smooth, and conceal nail imperfections. Use it with your favorite polish for a healthy nail sitch or between gel manicures for a much-needed refresher.

Beekman 1802 Goat Milk Cuticle Serum
Beekman 1802 Goat Milk Cuticle Serum $20

Aloe vera, squalene, and botanical oils combine (alongside the handy sponge tip) to soften and hydrate nails and cuticles. Apply it daily to douse your nail beds in strengthening vitamins so that they're less likely to develop the little white spots.

A Word to the Wise

While trauma is most often the culprit behind those white spots, if the spots on your nail (most often the toenail) are at all powdery, a fungus infection might be to blame, but that isn't really cause for concern, either—an antifungal treatment will clear it right up. (In some more mild cases, you maybe able to buff it off, cleanse the nail plate with alcohol, and discard buffer or file.) And in the interest of curtailing all your nail-related WebMD searches, note that any ridges you see likely don't indicate any horrific, underlying disease: They're actually the nail equivalent of wrinkles and are to be totally expected with age. Got any little dents or dips? That's actually a common side effect of psoriasis.

Pretty cool that your nails can tell you all that, right? Next, learn what your breakouts can reveal about your health.

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