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After posting a photo of my nails of the week the other day, I realized that it might be interesting to write up a Top 3 on nail care. Unlike my skin, I actually have absolutely terrible nails by nature, so this is an area that I’ve had a lot of struggle and trial-and-error with various products, techniques, etc.
While I don’t consider my nails to be in great shape now, they would be atrocious if it wasn’t for the following things that I make it a point to do…
1. MOISTURIZE MOISTURIZE MOISTURIZE!
Above all else, moisture is the absolute key to healthy nails – and by no means do I mean hydration. Water actually sucks the moisture out of your nails, so just as important as adding moisture in is avoiding water as much as possible. Drinking it is one thing (you should always drink as much water as you can for healthy skin, nails, and body), but soaking your hands in water, washing your hands frequently, or cleaning and doing dishes all day will do your nails no favors whatsoever.
Of course, I’m someone who washes her hands pretty frequently due to the nature of my day job, so I know that avoiding water like the plague is not always possible. Just do your best to keep it to a minimum, and make up for it with extra moisturizing.
For most people, simply incorporating any kind of cuticle oil twice a day will solve pretty much any problem they are having with their nails. However, if you need more intense hydration (like me), I highly recommend getting some good-quality, organic jojoba oil. Jojoba is not technically an oil – it’s a wax, and it’s the only substance known to man that mimics the natural oils your body produces. Because it’s so close to your own body oil, it’s very readily absorbed by your hair, skin, and nails. You won’t be running around with greasy fingers if you use jojoba on your nails!
So most important of all, moisturize your nails.
2. Wear nail polish
Along the lines of saving your nails from exposure to too much water, keeping a coat of polish on them will seal and protect your nails. You do need to be mindful of how often you change your polish, though, as removers can be very drying to your nails. If you can go a week without changing your polish, please do! It’s possible to just touch-up the color or add a coat of topcoat during the week to freshen it up if it starts to look worn.
Having a layer of polish over your nails (especially if you wrap the tips, too), will help to keep them from being exposed to too much water when you do have to wash your hands or do some cleaning. It will also get in the way of any impact damage if something were to hit or scratch your nails – the polish will take the damage before your nails do. Additionally, the polish will serve as a bit of support, kind of like a splint for your nail. Especially if you have thin or weak nails, the extra thickness will prevent them from bending or snapping as much as they normally would.
Looking for a polish that’s 5-free is your best bet. This means that the polish contains no dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, or camphor. The phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde are all damaging to nails and generally considered toxic, and camphor is an irritant that many people are likely to develop allergies to – and nail allergies can result in damaged, dry, peeling nails (or you can even break out in a rash if you scratch yourself while wearing a nail polish with camphor in it – bet you never thought you could have a reaction on, say, your face to your nail polish!).
While you have to be smart about the polish you pick, it’s undoubtedly best for your nails to have something on them to form a barrier of protection and strength.
3. Be gentle
The more stress you put on your nails and cuticles, the less healthy they will be. You should never use your nails as tools – so think twice the next time you want to open a soda can. You should also never abuse them with files, pushers, and other implements.
When you do need to file your nails, use the finest grit possible with light, soft strokes in all the same direction. Doing anything else is likely to tear the ends of your nails, leaving them vulnerable to further splitting and damage and also more porous (remember what I said about water being bad for nails?). If your nails have gotten quite a bit longer than you want them to be, it’s best to clip them down before filing so that you don’t put too much stress on the nail plate from a lot of filing.
If you need to clean up your cuticles, make sure you moisturize and soften them first. Hard, dead, dry skin will be difficult to push back and result in you pushing too hard on your nails. That can scratch, peel, poke, or otherwise damage your nail plate and nail bed. Push your softened cuticles back slowly and carefully in order to keep from doing them or your nails any harm.
Lastly, try to use cuticle nippers as infrequently as you can. Trimming your cuticles too often or too deep can cause them to grow in calloused and dry. It can also lead to broken skin and infections – neither of which is good for growing strong, healthy nails. If you have a hangnail, use the sharpest nippers you can find to carefully clip the hangnail off and leave it at that.
Treat your nails with care, and they’ll respond by growing in better every day.
Please share any top nail care tips that you have in the comments section. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to best care for your nails and cuticles, and I’m sure other readers will find them helpful, as well.