Monday, August 15, 2011

How To Strengthen Your Nails

This post is in response to a particular reader (Hi out there!) who wrote me this request: "Can you put something on your blog about hardening your nails please? Mine always break."

At the drugstore, you probably see lots of topcoats and nail treatments claiming to harden your nails, but there are plenty of easy-and mostly free-ways to keep your nails strong without them!

Tip 1: MOISTURIZE. This is a big one. Your nails need the proper amount of moisture, just like your skin does. Most nails break or crack because they are dry and brittle. Keep a nail or cuticle moisturizer in your purse and use it throughout the day and especially after you use nail polish remover (see Tip 3). My personal favorite is Smith's Rosebud Salve, since you can also use it on your lips too and Burt's Bees makes a great cuticle cream as well.

Tip 2: Don't pull off hangnails or cuticles. When you do this, you are most likely ripping living tissue too. Instead of tearing off a hangnail, use a pair of nail scissors or other small clippers to remove the loose piece and keep the rest of your nail tissue intact. Biting your nails can be also just as bad as picking at them, since you're spreading bacteria from your mouth to your nails.

Tip 3: Use nail polish remover with care. Many nail polish removers contain acetone, which is extremely drying to your nails. If you have brittle nails, avoid acetone-based removers, or if you choose to use a remover with acetone (they are great for getting off glitter polish in particular), rinse your hands as soon as all of your polish is off in order to minimize your nails' contact with the acetone. Ideally, you should only use nail polish remover one or two times per week. (Although if you're like me and love changing your polish, this really is not possible!)

Tip 4: Keep your nails short. Shorter nails are obviously less prone to breaking. It's best to clip your nails right after a bath or shower, as the hot water will have softened them up. If you want to keep a bit more length to your nails, use a file to create a clean, rounded line on areas where you notice breakages, splits or brittleness. This way you can minimize overall damage while still maximizing your nail length.

Tip 5: Don't use your nails as tools. This should be a no-brainer, but using them to peel off stickers, break seals, scrape surfaces, etc. will only weaken your nails.

Tip 6: Try a home remedy. One of the most popular is soaking your nails in lemon juice, either from a bottle or directly from the fruit itself. Submerge your fingernails entirely in a bowl of lemon juice and let them soak for around fifteen minutes. Keep this up regularly, as your nails will absorb the minerals in the lemon juice, allowing the proteins and keratin in your nails to grow stronger and faster. You can also try brushing on olive oil to help keep your nails moisturized.

Tip 7: For severe cases, consult your doctor. Nails are a good indication of your overall health, so if yours are naturally very brittle, jagged, yellow or otherwise abnormal, bring it up next time you see your doctor. They can tell you whether it's a quick fix or the sign of an underlying issue like infection or a vitamin deficiency.

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