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How do Cancer and Cancer Treatments Affect the Nails?


In honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, we are sharing more information about how cancer and cancer treatments may affect nails. To preface, cancer and cancer treatments may affect the nail plate (the hard, visible surface of the nail) or the areas around the nail plate. What we commonly think of as our nails is the nail plate. They grow out of the nail bed (the root of the nail where nutrients are received). Growth means that new cells constantly push out the older cells along the nail plate. Eventually, these cells die off, which is why we can cut the white part of the nail plate with no pain. Different cancer treatments will affect nails differently. Side effects of medicines may also affect nails. While few cancers can be seen in the nails, medications may also cause nail changes. It’s best to consult with a medical professional if you notice anything concerning on your nails.


Nail Changes to be Aware Of:

  1. Dark areas near the cuticle

    1. These appear along the bottom edge of the cuticle and can be seen in nail cancer (melanoma). However, they can also be from some cancer treatments.

  2. Hemorrhages

    1. Bleeding under the nail plate; can be caused by cancer treatments

  3. Inflammation

    1. Redness or swelling that can come with an infection causes pain and limit daily activities. It can be caused by cancer treatments

  4. Nail loss

    1. Some medications and treatments can cause the entire nail plate to fall off. This can increase the risk of infection.

  5. Slower nail growth or interrupted growth

    1. Treatments such as chemotherapy can damage the growth of other cells. Ridges may appear on the nail where cell growth is interrupted. They’ll usually even out as the nail grows.

Why do treatments like chemotherapy damage the nail?
Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment that works by targeting the growth cycles of cells to prevent fast-growing cancer cells from continuing to replicate and spread. Targeting growth can damage other fast-growing cells in the body, like hair and nails. Typically, chemo may cause splitting, interrupted growth, brittle nails, or nail loss. Different chemo treatments affect nails in different ways and levels of severity.


How to Help With Nail Changes

  1. For non-painful changes like slower nail growth or weaker nails, water-soluble nail polish can protect the nail from splitting or more damage. Biotin is a supplement that may also help strengthen nails.

  2. More intense changes like bleeding, inflammation, and nail loss will likely require the help of a medical professional. Talk with your doctor about the options and what would be best for you.

Everyday Actions that May Mitigate Minor Nail Damage

  1. Use water soluwater-solubleble nail lacquer to help protect delicate nails.

  2. Keep nails short to avoid catching on things.

  3. Keep hands and nails clean to avoid infections.

  4. Observe nails daily and report any concerning findings to a medical professional.

  5. Protect hands from water and high-impact work like cleaning or gardening.

  6. Avoid getting a professional manicure during treatment

  7. Avoid putting too much pressure on nail beds.

For more information on nail changes, the causes of specific changes, and potential ways to manage changes, check out this article by the American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/hair-skin-nails/nail-changes.html


In response to our founder’s mother’s cancer journey, DEMIblue is a nontoxic, cruelty-free, and vegan nail polish, free of harsh chemicals that may damage nails. This month, support the breast cancer survivors in your life with the tag #demibluecares for shoutouts and giveaways. We are featuring two unique, limited-time sets in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Check out the Juliet Box and the Survivor Duo (with our color of the month, Pink Panties). A portion of the proceeds will go to deserving community organizations focused on the fight against Breast Cancer. Check out our website to learn more!




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