Identifying Common Nail Disorders

Nail Disorder or Disease?

As a nail technician, you often come across many different nail conditions, but do you know if it is a nail disorder or nail disease?

A nail disorder is a condition that can be treated and is often caused by internal and external factors. A nail disease is more serious and if not treated, can result in a serious infection or even permanent damage to the nail. A nail disease will often show signs of infection and inflammation with the nail or surrounding skin typically appearing red and swollen.

Nail Disorders

Some of the most common nail disorders and diseases my fellow techs and I have come across are:


Infected finger with red swelling around the cuticle

By Chris Craig (Ciotog) - Own work, Public Domain,


Paronychia: Most common in those whose hands are constantly exposed to moisture. Paronychia usually results in inflamed, painful and pussing cuticles.

Next steps: This client needs to see their GP. Advise them to keep their hands as dry as possible.


Nail with green mould underneath


Pseudomonas (greenies): 

Most nail infections are caused by bacteria, including pseudomonas, which show up as green discoloration of the nail and what many people confuse as mold.

Next steps: The green spot cannot be removed but will grow out in time. Enhancements should be removed to prevent further problems.


Nail with white spots underneath


Leukonychia (white spots): Caused by small trauma to the nail bed or matrix causing these white spots to appear. The spots will eventually grow out.

Next steps: Offer standard services.


Nail separating from the nail bed


Onycholysis (separation of the nail plate): The nail separates from the nail bed at the free edge and can spread all the way to the lanula. This condition can be caused by trauma or illness.

Next steps: Trim away the separation and refer the client to their GP if necessary or infection is present.


Nail with dark spot underneath showing bruising


Subungual hematoma (bruising): This occurs when trauma to the nail results in a collection of blood under the nail. It may result from an acute injury or from repeated minor trauma such as running.

Next steps: If the hematoma is small and the nail isn’t in danger of falling off, no treatment is often necessary. In more serious cases the blood can pool and pressure can build up, which needs to be medically treated. Even as the nail is growing out, don’t cover the area with product because the nail has actually pulled away from the nail bed. Applying product over this could trap bacteria between the nail plate and the nail bed.


So What Do You Do?

Nail assessment can give hints to the internal and external condition of the body. A nail technician may be the first to spot a change in nail health. Some changes to look out for are:

  • Pliability: such as brittleness; thickness; splitting
  • Shape and texture: such as curving; pitting; ridges; spooning
  • Discolouration of the nail bed.

The most important thing is to treat the cause of the problem – whether it be an irritant, infection, or disorder. As a nail tech, you should stress the importance of identifying the initial reason for the issue, as nails can be an indicator of overall health. Advise your client to see their GP for the problem.

As a nail professional, don’t be tempted or pressured to compromise your clients natural nail health. If you are ever in doubt, do not treat and refer to a GP, they will be thankful in the long run.

Love Katie B x