Our nails take on a lot of wear and tear throughout the day. But who has time to keep their nails pristine? Gardening, exercising, constant washing, even tying your kid’s shoelaces can contribute to the breaking of a nail. Not to mention those of us with a habit of anxious nail biting! But, incorporating these simple tips into your routine can promote strong, healthy nails so that you can focus on what makes you happy.
What’s Normal, and What’s Not
Many unwanted nail conditions, like vertical ridges that develop from the cuticle to the tip of the nail, can be avoided through proper nail care. Other issues can indicate an underlying condition that may need medical attention.
If you’re experiencing changes in nail color and shape, thickening or thinning of nails, separation of the nail from surrounding skin, bleeding or swelling and pain, then consult your doctor or dermatologist to deduce if an underlying problem is present.
Eat Nail-Friendly Foods
Vitamins A, C, and E as well as biotin, which is a B-complex, are essential for healthy nails, hair and skin. Deficiencies in any of these antioxidants can result in brittle and broken nails. Most people get these nutrients in the foods they eat. Dr. Joey Shulman, the author of The Natural Makeover Diet, recommends eating these nutrient-rich foods in order to keep your nails strong and healthy.
1. Almonds and Walnuts
Loaded with omega-3 essential fats, these nuts have been shown to improve brain function, have cardio-protective benefits and reduce the inflammatory response. They also provide the fatty acids that your nails need to grow strong and long. Sprinkle these over your salad, or grab a handful while you’re on the go to get your omega-3 kick.
2. Whole Grains with Iron
Not only is iron essential for healthy nails, but it also is beneficial to your hair and skin. Whole grain or 100 percent whole wheat bread or pasta are good sources of iron. You can also get your iron from other foods, like meats, eggs, leafy greens, and legumes.
Your nails are composed of layers of protein called Keratin, and they’ll need protein in order to remain healthy. Fish, chicken, eggs, red meats, and soy-products will provide you with the protein your body needs. You can also get protein from legumes and high protein nuts, such as peanuts and cashews.
Flaxseeds are full of omega-3’s, fiber and protein, but in order for your body to absorb the flaxseed it will need to be ground or milled. Flaxseed is easy to sprinkle on your cereal or add to a smoothie.
Choose Healthy Nail-Care Products
The nail polish that you put on your nails can be contributing to your brittle nails. Nail polishes are filled with unhealthy toxins that have been proven to cause harm in humans. With these toxins sitting on your nails, it’s no wonder that they break under the pressure.
Researchers at EWG (Environmental Working Group) and Duke University find that nail polishes can contain a suspected endocrine disruptor called triphenyl phosphate, or TPHP. The scientists at Duke also tested 10 different nail polishes for TPHP itself and found that eight contained it. According to EWG’s Skin Deep Database, many popular polishes use the ingredient TPHP, including Sally Hansen, Essie, OPI, Revlon and Wet N Wild.
TPHP might disrupt hormones in humans, and in animal studies has upset reproductive and development processes. Cosmetics companies use it because the chemical makes nail polish more flexible and durable. It’s also used in plastics manufacturing and as a common fire retardant in furniture cushions and some foam children’s products.
What You Can Do to Avoid Toxins
1. Try going “au natural”, by simply buffing your nails instead of painting
2. If you do choose to paint your nails, avoid products that contain toluene, formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, or triphenyl phosphate
3. Opt into painting your nails at home to avoid the toxic fumes in the air of a nail salon
4. Do not inhale the airborne toxins of the polish
Natural Nail Polish
Katie, the creator of the award-winning website, “Wellness Mama” recommends these natural nail polishes, which she and her family have used and loved:
1. Scotch Naturals
This product scored a 1/10 on the EWG database. It is free of harmful chemicals and does not have a strong smell. Katie states that it worked like conventional nail polishes when using their recommended base and top coat. It is available in a multitude of colors.
Also ranking 1/10 on the EWG database, this product is a little bit pricier, but it stays on the nails well and doesn’t have a strong chemical smell. It is water based as well as vegan and wheat free. The company also makes a non-toxic nail polish remover.
3. Honeybee Gardens
Honeybee Gardens is a water-based nail polish, free of dangerous chemicals and has a low rating on the EWG database. It is available in 25 colors and can be removed with vodka or rubbing alcohol.
4. Piggy Paint
Piggy Paint is the least expensive of all the brands on the list. It doesn’t stay on as long as other polishes, which is great for those wishing to “change it up” often.
Suncoat is a non-toxic option with an EWG rating of 1. It peels off easily so no nail polish remover is needed.
You can find Katie’s website, “Wellness Mama” here: https://wellnessmama.com/
Avoid Poor Manicure Habits
Many habits that seem so small and insignificant can actually be detrimental to the health of your fingernails. Make sure that you are NOT doing any of the following to ensure that your nails stay healthy and strong:
1. Do not bite your nails and pick your cuticles
These habits can damage the nail bed. When the nail bed is damaged there is a risk of bacteria or fungi entering, which may cause infection. To avoid biting your nails, keep them short and have a nail file on hand. Instead of removing your cuticles, use a cuticle scraper to clean up your nail beds, which will also remove dead skin while still keeping the bed intact
2. Do not pull off hangnails
By pulling off hangnails you are at risk of ripping live tissue. Instead, carefully clip off the hangnail.
3. Do not use harsh nail products
The toxic ingredients within many nail polishes and nail polish removers can damage your nails, and release toxins into your body. Opt-in for natural nail polishes (like the ones listed above), and use an acetone-free nail polish remover.
4. Do not ignore problems
If you have an ongoing nail problem that doesn’t seem to go away, it may be beneficial to consult a doctor, especially if you are experiencing any other symptoms. There may be a larger issue at play, requiring medical attention.
We use our hands every day, so of course, we want to make sure that they are a reflection of ourselves: strong and healthy. By incorporating good manicure technique, nutrient-rich foods, and toxin-free products, you’re on the right path to obtaining healthy nails.