Healthy fingernails are smooth and appear in different colors as they grow out. But they’re actually transparent.

Fingernails can look white at the base, pink on the majority of the nail, and white or clear at the tip.

Discoloration or changes to the texture of your nail may be signs of certain environmental factors, injuries, or medical conditions. Not all changes to fingernails are a medical concern.

Fingernails are made of the protein keratin and flattened cells. The nail plate, or the top part of the nail, is transparent, or clear, because the flattened cells don’t have nuclei. The nail appears to be different colors because the clear nail exposes colors underneath the nail plate, including:

  • Lunula. This is the half-moon white shape at the bottom of your nail (you may not see this on every nail). One reason it appears white is because your skin is thicker at the bottom of the nail.
  • Nail bed. This is under your nail plate and is pink in color. This is pink because the skin is thinner and there’s a lot of vascular activity underneath it.
  • Distal edge. Also called free edge, this is the part of your nail plate that’s no longer on top of your skin. These edges can be white or clear.
cuticle, nail, pushing back cuticlesShare on Pinterest
Fingernail anatomy.

Healthy nails are transparent. But, they may become thinner and more brittle, or change to a paler or whiter color for a variety of reasons.

An external cause may be the culprit when the changes occur on just your fingernails and not your toenails. Changes to all of your fingernails or to your fingernails and toenails may indicate an underlying health condition.

External causes

Your nails may peel off in clear pieces, which causes the nail to become thinner. This can occur for a few reasons:

  • washing your hands too much
  • living in drier environments or in cold weather where you’re inside with dry heat
  • picking off nail polish or picking at your nails

Your nails may become softer because of exposure to chemicals, including:

  • household or industrial cleaning products
  • nail polish removers with or without acetone (those containing acetone may be more damaging)

Underlying medical conditions


Your nails may become paler in color if you have anemia. This is an iron deficiency that can be corrected through diet and supplements. Your nails may also become brittle or appear spoon-like. Other symptoms of anemia include fatigue, dizziness, and constipation.

Thyroid condition

Your nails may also become brittle and split if you have a thyroid condition. This occurs when you have an irregular amount of thyroid hormones in your body, which alters your metabolism. You may need medication or changes to your diet to manage your thyroid and prevent symptoms to your nails.

Other conditions

Other subtle changes to your transparent nail color may be due to other health conditions:

  • Nails that turn whiter in color may be due to liver disease or diabetes.
  • Nails that look half white and half pink may be a sign of kidney disease.
  • Nails that have white lines may have stopped growing temporarily and then resumed growing. This may be caused by stress, illness, or medical treatment like chemotherapy.

You may also notice your transparent nail lifting from the nail bed. The nail may then turn white. This could be from a fungus, an injury, or an autoimmune condition like psoriasis, which affects your skin and nails.

Your nails are transparent underneath the nail bed, and they may grow away from the nail bed with a clear color. This isn’t necessarily a concern, but it may also be related to:

  • environmental factors like chemical exposure, weather, and frequent handwashing
  • medical conditions

As your nails grow out beyond the nail bed, they usually change to white. This is because the nail is dry. This is nothing to worry about and is a sign of healthy nails.

Fingernail treatments will depend on your symptoms. Strong, healthy clear nails require no management. But there are home-based and medical treatments to help your nails if you do notice changes.

Home remedies

If you suspect that your nails have changed because of environmental factors, you can:

  • Wear gloves when you use chemical cleaners.
  • Avoid frequent handwashing.
  • Apply emollients like petroleum jelly or lotion containing alpha-hydroxy acids or lanolin after soaking your hands.
  • Let your nails breathe and avoid polish from time to time.
  • Use nail polish remover that doesn’t contain acetone.
  • Trim your nails, but avoid cutting them too short.
  • Be gentle with your nails when manicuring them, buff your nails in the direction they grow, and don’t push back your cuticles.
  • Eat a balanced diet.

Medical treatments

Changes to the nails can be the sign of a more serious medical condition.

You may need to treat an underlying condition if:

  • Your fingernails and toenails develop similar changes.
  • You suspect an infection.
  • You can’t think of environmental factors that may be causing symptoms.

Infections caused by fungus or bacteria may require a prescription or over-the-counter treatment. Other health conditions will be treated after you talk with a doctor. Treatments for the underlying condition may improve your nails, or you may need additional care to get your nails back to health.

You should see a doctor or medical professional if you experience drastic changes to your fingernails or suspect you have a health condition affecting your fingernail health. Also talk with a doctor if you suspect you have a nail infection.

Healthy nails are transparent and look pink because of the vascular activity under the nail bed. They change to clear or white when they grow out past the skin.

Changes to your nail like peeling, splitting, or color alterations may be signs of environmental factors or other medical conditions.

Talk with a doctor or medical professional if you’re concerned about the changes to your fingernails.