OK, so we’re beauty editors. But it’s always been a bit of a mystery to us that our hair and skin can be strong and lustrous while our fingers – which are made of the same protein as hair (keratin) – still tend to be weak, flaky and dry. However, over our years of research, we have just about managed to find a (multi-pronged) solution – and this month, we’re sharing it with you.
We long ago decided that the reason our nails are ‘challenged’ is the tough life our hands endure – because despite our tendency-to-raggedness fingernails, our toenails are just fine, thanks. Just reflect on a day in the life of your fingernails: constantly exposed to water and paper (wetting them makes nails swell, while paper is drying, so they shrink) – a cycle that repeated enough makes them brittle and fragile. Add to that pollutants of all kinds, plus the harsh chemicals in polish and remover. Well, no wonder they show the strain…
So apart from a total life shift (think: lying on a sofa 24/7, languidly raising a perfectly-manicured hand to summon who or who you need), what can you do…?
In no particular order, here’s what works for us, which we originally shared with our readers in our book The Green Beauty Bible. Remember, though: it takes up to three months for a new nail to grow in, so don’t expect instant results – although you should start to see some improvements within two to four weeks.
• Use lots of hand cream, very often – as often as you drink a glass of water (so that’s eight times a day, isn’t it?), and certainly every time you’ve had your hands in water.
• Massage in a good nail oil at night, and again during the day if possible. Our Beauty Bible testers have twice trialled Organic Cuticle & Nail Strengthener by Green Hands , awarding it an incredibly impressive average score, with rave reviews that include: ‘My splitting nails are stronger, more flexible and less brittle’; ‘I am a nurse and the cleaning products we use are so strong, my nails suffer terribly; they now look better, are stronger and a lot smoother and don’t break so easily – I would recommend this product to anyone’, and ‘nails stronger and did not split or flake once; cuticles softer – I was surprised at how much difference this made.’ Naomi Andersson of Green Hands also recommends using olive oil ‘or even lip balms in pots: massage all over the nail and around the cuticle every night.’ (We find that Lanolips Lemonaid Lip Aid works well, too.)
• Wear gloves to protect your nails whenever you can – for washing up and any dirty/wet jobs. And if you can bring yourself to pull on thin gloves while you’re opening mail or handling paper for any reason, your nails will reward you. (Velvet or silk gloves at your desk…? Could be very chic!)
• If you rashly disregard the above advice, dig your nails into a bar of soap before you do any dirty work – such as grooming horses (Sarah) or pricking out seedlings (Jo). Then scrub them with a nail brush when you’re done, and moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.
• Never abuse your nails by treating them as screwdrivers, grout-cleaners or for digging up fields (er, as Sarah does…)
• Eat plenty of good omega-3 fats – in oily fish, freshly-ground flaxseeds and walnuts. And take a great omega-3 supplement such as (we never tire of recommending this) Ideal Omega IdealOmega 3.
• Make sure you get enough protein. Iron deficiency is also a common cause of brittle nails, as it is for thinning hair, so if you suspect a problem have your iron levels measured. If they’re low, consider a gentle supplement such as Spatone or Floradix (the iron tables recommended by family doctors may cause digestive side effects, according to Dr. Ivor Cavill of the University of Wales College of Medicine, an expert in anaemia).
• Consider supplements. In Sarah’s case, a daily chlorella supplement – Sun Chlorella A – has revolutionised her fingertips.