Your Guide To Gorgeous, Healthy Nails
Whether we opt for them bare, perfectly manicured or adorned in acrylic, everybody wants to have beautiful, healthy nails. But, as with our hair and skin, our nails can take a beating, and it’s not always easy to keep them in tip-top shape. Here’s what you need to know.
The State of Your Nails
The first thing to understand about our nails is their current state of health. Healthy nails have healthy cuticles, and the nail plates are a pinkish-white color.
Unfortunately, many women have weak nails that tend to break before they reach a certain length. Besides biting and chewing on our nails, other factors that may hinder the health and growth of our nails. These include genetics, stress, and the weather, as well as nutrient deficiencies, medication, lifestyle diseases and exposure to harsh chemicals.
Signs of unhealthy nails
- Peeling, brittle and breaking nails: Nails often become dry or dehydrated through the frequent use of pure acetone nail polish remover, incorrect application and the removal of artificial nails, as well as exposure to various household cleaning products. In severe cases, they could be caused by vitamin deficiency.
- Loose nails: These indicate a possible fungal infection, likely caused by an injury that separates the nail from the nail bed. An infection may also occur from poor hygiene and poor maintenance of artificial nails.
- Yellow nails: These come about through aging, excessive use of artificial nails and smoking.
- Spoon nails: These are a sign of an iron deficiency or anemia.
The basics of effective nail care
- Take care of your cuticles
The health of your nails is solely dependent on the health of your cuticles and the nail bed. This is because the cuticle is responsible for protecting new nails from bacteria. Therefore, if you want to ensure healthy nail growth, you need to ensure that the cuticle bed is healthy and hydrated.
Aside from not picking at this area and keeping it clean, it’s best to massage it with cuticle oil, preferably a product that contains either Shea butter or vitamin E, as this will both hydrate and strengthen the area.
To do this, choose a small wooden nail stick and gently push back the cuticle, before massaging the area with the oil. You can also keep the area clean by gently scrubbing it with a toothbrush and clipping your nails every two weeks. Try not to cut too close to the cuticle, and remember to keep your nail tools clean, to prevent the build-up of bacteria.
Lastly, always wear gloves when doing dishes or other household chores, to prevent your hands from becoming dry.
2. Eat nail-enriching foods
Your nails may reveal the state of your general health, particularly if you’re low on nutrients. It’s important to include more fiber, fruit, and vegetables in your diet. An important nutrient for nail health is biotin (a water-soluble B vitamin), which can be found in supplement form, as well as in almonds, cauliflower, and spinach. Also, as your nails are made of keratin, a type of protein, it’s important to consume more protein-rich foods: beans, fish such as salmon, and nuts.
Lastly, stay hydrated. Your nails can become brittle and weak if they’re dehydrated, so it’s important to drink enough water.
Visiting the salon
“Finding the correct nail salon is very important,” explains Lea Castro, CEO of vegan nail brand Looking Good LCN.
When choosing a nail salon, always check the hygiene of the salon, and ensure that there is proper ventilation. The level of professionalism that those in the salon display will also highlight the type of treatment you are likely to receive.
You should ascertain whether the products the nail t
echnicians are using are free of toxic ingredients, mainly dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde, toluene, and camphor. Not only can these toxins contribute to brittleness, splitting and cracking, but, according to a recent study published in the journal Environmental Pollution, nail technicians are exposed to higher levels of some harmful and cancer-causing chemicals, particularly formaldehyde, than they would be if they were working in auto garages and oil refineries.
Click on this link to find out how these chemicals can be absorbed into your body and cause all manner of issues. You should also keep an eye out for the technicians’ hygiene practices. Do they close bottles tightly? Do they immediately dispose of all used cotton balls? Are their hands freshly washed?
Let’s talk about gel
Gel nail polish seems to be the go-to for the person on the go, and why wouldn’t it be? Gel is stronger and longer-lasting than the average nail polish. However, its convenience doesn’t limit the potential damage it can do to your nails.
For one, getting a gel manicure usually entails the use of UV light for drying. Unfortunately, the exposure to this type of light may serve to damage the skin and potentially increase one’s risk of skin cancer. To counter this, it’s advisable to either apply an SPF 50 to your hands or use gloves that shield the hands from the UV rays and leave only the nails exposed.
Never peel off your gel nail polish, as this can weaken the structure of the nail. If your gel application is a once-off, simply soak your nails in nail polish remover, preferably acetone-free. However, if you insist on using a nail polish remover that contains acetone, be sure to apply a cuticle cream afterwards. If you plan on continuing with your gel manicure, Castro suggests having a refill. Soaking off every month can cause the natural nail to become soft and dehydrated, she says.
All things acrylic nails
For those who can’t seem to maintain the length of their nails, acrylic nails will be the way to go. Unfortunately, though, acrylics may be detrimental to the health of your own nails.
While it’s a safe procedure, as long as your nail technician is properly trained and experienced, acrylics need to be maintained. Always wear gloves when doing household chores, such as prolonged exposure to water, and additional chemicals can cause the acrylic nail to lift, which provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Once you have your set of nails, you can get them filled every two to three weeks. When you’re looking to remove your nails, you simply need to soak your nails in nail polish remover. That said, it’s best to use the services of a professional because you could damage the nail bed.
The Bottom Line
As decorative and attractive as both acrylics and gel manicures can be, it’s important to take regular breaks between treatments to allow your nails to rest and repair. At the end of the day, the best thing you could do for your nails in the coming year is to be as natural as possible.
What are your nails saying about your health? Click here to read further.