I've had a few people ask me to do a post on how to obtain, and care for, healthy natural nails. After all, that's what we strive for, right? Who in their right mind would wear enhancements if their natural nails were healthy, strong, and beautiful?
The good news is that anyone can have gorgeous nails with just a tiny bit of effort!
The first step on the road to healthy nails, is a healthy body. I know, I know. It sounds so cliché, but it's true. Nail cells are manufactured in the same manner as the rest of your body's cells, if you don't provide your body with the fuel it needs to build those cells, then it can't create them properly. So nourish your body with a healthy diet, and it will reflect in more than your nails; you'll also get healthy hair, skin, and overall body health in the process!
A good daily beauty regimen is the next step. Cuticle oil (also called nail oil or penetrating oil) is a must, at least once a day, every day! Other oils cannot take the place of products made specifically for your nails. The reason for this is because the pores in your nails are very small. In order for an oil to penetrate the nail plate deeply enough for it to do any good, it has to have special carriers to get the nutrients deep down inside. Even oils made for skin, like Vitamin E oil, can't do the job on their own, they need help to be able to get past the surface of the nail plate.
Let's look at it this way. I have a Sumo wrestler standing on my front porch, and he wants to come into my house, but the door is way too small for him. I can push and pull him all I want, but he's not coming in without some major help. So, to help him through, I get a tub of butter, cover him with it, and give him a little shove. POP With barely any effort at all, he's through the door and in my living room.
Now, the Sumo wrestle is the Vitamin E, the door is a pore on your nail plate, and the butter is the carrier. Get the picture?
Most companies use jojoba oil as their carrier, and honestly I'm unsure if there's an adequate substitute out there. CND's Solar Oil contains jojoba, along with Vit E and other beneficial oils. In my opinion it is the best on the market for nourishing your nails, and you'll see results within a week of regular use.
The reason using cuticle oil is so important for your nails is twofold. One: it keeps them moisturized and flexible, which prevents chipping, tearing, and flaking. Two: it fills the pores, which in turn keeps the bad stuff out, like water (which can actually dry your nails), dirt, and contaminates.
Lotion is also important in your daily regimen, especially if you put your hands in water a lot during the day. Again, use good quality lotions made specifically for your hands. CND's Sentsations, and Qtica Smart Spa lotions are my favorites. Keep a bottle by the sink so you remember to use it as soon as you've finished drying your hands. Regular application will keep your hands smooth, and your nails healthy.
This next one always tends to surprise people, but. Keep your nails polished! Polish is actually good for your nails, it protects them, and keeps dirt, water, and contaminates from penetrating your nail plate. It also helps to strengthen your nails and keep them from chipping and flaking. So keep the pinkies polished. You don't have to use a color if you prefer a natural look. A clear top coat every few days will do the trick, and if you don't like that glossy look, there are some great matte top coats made by China Glaze, Orly, and CND that will give you the strength without the shine.
Next, you need to recognize and understand the issues with your nails, then address them individually.
If your nails are thin, flimsy, and tend to fold before they crack or break, then you should use a nail strengthener as a base coat under your polish.
If your nails are rigid and prone to chipping and breaking along the free edge, then oil, oil, and oil some more. DO NOT use nail strengtheners or hardeners! Strengtheners are designed to make nails more rigid, already rigid nails will quickly become brittle and more prone to breakage. So these types of products will only increase the problems you're experiencing. Instead, use penetrating oils and lotions religiously to increase the flexibility in your nails, and eliminate chipping and cracking.
If your nails tend to flake and peel, use cuticle oil and lotions to increase the flexibility in your nail plate. Also, be very careful when filing and clipping your nails. Invest in a glass nail file, which burnishes and seals the free edge while filing to prevent flaking. If you prefer an emery board, only use the fine side of the file, and don't see-saw back and forth on your nail. File from the outside edges in towards the center, in a slow, gentle motion. Keep your nails polished, as it will greatly reduce flaking, and if you must clip your nails, be sure to gently file them after you've clipped. Clipping causes microscopic fractures along the free edge of the nail plate (as does aggressive filing), which eventually expands into a flake or split, so if you can avoid it, please do.
Last but not least, go get a manicure! We like to see you at our table every two weeks, but if you can't swing that we'll settle for once a month. Talk your nail tech about your problems and concerns, we can help you out. Not only that, but we have a wide range of intensive treatments at our disposal that you cannot get at the local Wal-Mart or Sally's.
Plus, it feels really, really good!
Now when I say manicure, I don't mean at your local Not Safe Salon. If you're paying less than $15 for a manicure, you might want to take a look around the salon and ask yourself if it meets standards. If not, it's time to start looking for a new nail tech. If you're not sure, talk to me, I can tell you what to look for, and if necessary put you in touch with some awesome techs in your area.
If you have any questions about your nail problems, or need help finding quality products for your nails, leave a comment here, talk to me on facebook, or hit me up on twitter. I'd be happy to help you achieve those gorgeous hands you've been dreaming of!
P.S. Special thanks To Holly, who taught me so many things about nail products, and gave me the Sumo wrestler analogy way back in nail school.