Valerie Monroe
Photo: Robert Trachtenberg
Q: My nail beds are smooth and pink, but the tips are yellow. What causes this and how can I fix it?

A: It sounds like your nail beds are healthy but the tips are stained, says New Orleans dermatologist Deirdre O'Boyle Hooper, MD. The nicotine in cigarettes can turn your nails yellow, but I hope that's not the root of your problem. (Smoking also causes wrinkles and an unlovely smoker's pallor, not to mention a host of ugly health issues.) Instead, I'm going to assume that you're dealing with the most common cause of yellowing: wearing nail polish. To eliminate the stains, Hooper recommends lightly buffing your (unpolished) nails and soaking them for five to ten minutes in lemon juice or, if you're more ambitious, a slushy mixture of two parts peroxide and one part baking soda. Do the soak every other day until you see an improvement. To prevent restaining, use a protective base coat under your polish, and give your nails a polish-free week every once in a while. But what if you're a nonsmoker and a nonpolisher? Then the staining may be due to aging. For that (inevitable) condition, run a whitening pencil under the tips.

Keep in mind: If the remedies above don't work, consult a dermatologist; rarely, yellowing can be caused by an underlying medical condition.

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