I am frequently asked by my clients - as well as many random men and women - why nails do what they do. Why do they bend? Why do they break? Why do they peel? And more importantly, what can I do about them?
There are some very easy remedies for all of these common problems. Keep reading to find out how to grow your own healthy, beautiful nails without alot of effort or expense. I promise these helpful tips will work for you as long as you follow the instructions :)
What they do: they are very dry, can flake at the free edge, crack/break along the sidewalls, and are hard and brittle. Sometimes they will have vertical ridging, sometimes you'll see dry, flaky white spots. You know you have hard nails if you can't bend them by pressing down on the free edge. This hardness actually causes the nails to break (and not bend) when they are exposed to trauma. Often the skin around the nails appears dry as well, which can lead to hangnails.
Why: They lack moisture. Moisture influences nail flexibility and durability by acting as a lubricant and a shock absorber. Use of harsh solvents, over-washing of hands and age are all contributing factors. If you have dry, hard nails, frequent exposure to water just makes your nails expand and contract every time, and when they contract they lose moisture. This can cause your nail polish to chip. Our northern climate contributes greatly to this lack of moisture in the winter months.
Remedy: Use a conditioning cuticle oil daily (twice-daily is best but I recommend to my clients to use it at bedtime so that it will not be washed off but absorbed by your nails overnight). Make sure the oil contains oils such as almond, jojoba, or olive oil - the molecules in these oils are small enough to penetrate your nails. Avoid use of products containing mineral oils - they merely sit on the top of the skin and nails and do not penetrate. (And if you wear enhancements, products containing mineral oil can actually contribute to lifting). Any good professional cuticle oil will contain the right ingredients to do the job properly.
How it works: Oils absorbed into the nails can slow down the passage of water through the nail plate. This results in less brittle and more flexible nails. Because oil does not evaporate as fast as water, it remains inside the nails, and increases the moisture content.
Why: They have too much moisture, which weakens the nail plate and causes this damage. If your nails are constantly exposed to water they can become soft and weak. This is why gloves are often recommended when doing any kind of housecleaning (not to mention save your skin from harsh solvents and chemicals).
Remedy: Use a nail strengthener/hardener but the trick here is to only use it until you see that your nails are no longer soft and bendy. If you continue to use the nail hardener past this point, you'll start to dry out your nails and then you'll have hard, brittle nails that start to crack and break! Many clients don't know this vital part of the treatment cycle. Look for a nail treatment that specifically targets soft, thin and peeling nails and follow the manufacturer's directions.
How it works: without getting really technical, they create more cross-links inside the nail plate which results in stronger nails with less room for moisture. It's not that they dry your nails out - there is just less room for water and oil to reside. Overuse however as mentioned above will result in nails that start to become too hard. Too hard is never good for nails.
Just Right Nails
What they do: they have the perfect balance of strength and moisture. These types of 'normal' nails have about 18 percent water by weight. These nails rarely break or peel but they will bend slightly when downward pressure is applied to the free edge. The skin around the nails is not dry.
There is no remedy required for these types of nails because this is the optimum state for your nails. By correctly identifying the type of nail problem you have and taking steps to remedy it as I've described, you should be able to see a big difference in your nails in a very short time.
There is no benefit to any nail treatment that includes seaweed, calcium or vitamins, or any other strange and wonderful concoction. These are not absorbed by your nails and are a complete waste of money.
The Bottom Line
When searching for a nail treatment I would highly recommend you purchase one from a reputable, professional nail care company or directly from a nail technician who sells these products in their salons. I realize not everyone has access to their own personal nail tech or a salon who sells these products. Some names to look for: OPI (Nail Envy treatments, Avoplex cuticle oil), CND (Solar Oil) - both of these companies manufacture top of the line, professional-quality products. In the drugstore look for Sally Hansen or other similar companies who specialize in retail nail products.
I hope this post has helped you manage your nail care expectations and better understand the condition of your nails!
Till next time....