Click, clack on everything. The secret to healthy nails really isn’t a secret at all- it’s about treating my nails the same way that I treat the rest of my body.
No nail polish
When I wore polish for too long, I noticed my nails became yellow and brittle. There’s something inherently harmful in many nail polishes. For a while, I used clear polish during the dry months or when I needed to handle clothes in retail. However, that also required me to use nail polish remover, which I’ve since gone without. Both my nails and my nose have thanked me!
Besides coating them with chemicals, dryness is another reason for brittle nails. There are a couple culprits for this, including common soaps and lotions. Most soaps are too harsh for skin, which also means they are too harsh for nails. Commercial soaps, such as the ones in the workplace, stores, or public restrooms, are often worse. Have you ever crouched below your sink at work to read the ingredients? Some, like cosmetics, even contain toxic chemicals like formaldehyde.
At home, I wear gloves while doing the dishes to protect my hands from over-drying. I also use natural and gentle soaps in my sink and shower. At work, I struggled to find the right soap that was easy to store and to discretely carry into the bathroom. I didn’t want to give up properly washing my hands, but I also didn’t want to use standard soap that left my hands feeling pinched and dry as soon as I got back to my desk. My solution has been Dr. Bronner’s travel-size Castile soap. It’s small but concentrated, so it lasts a long time.
Once I stopped stripping my hands and nails of their natural oils, they were healthier. Yet, my nails would still snag at the edges and eventually break. We don’t usually think of sensations in our nails, but I could feel through my fingertips that my nails were dry. And so as often as I put lotion on my hands, I also put it on my nails. Any natural oil will do. Many soaps and lotions in stores contain alcohol, which is extremely drying.
I use whipped shea butter for its airy yet creamy texture and ability to survive a couple hand-washings. I’ve both purchased whipped shea butter and made it at home. I don’t think one is better than the other – it really depends on how much time you have. Just be sure to check the ingredients! A good whipped shea butter doesn’t need more than 5 ingredients.
When I made it at home, I used a 3:1 ratio of solids (shea butter, coconut oil) to liquids (almond oil, olive oil, jojoba oil). My attempt to add fresh rosemary for a noticeable scent wasn’t successful.
I file my nails instead of clipping of them. Clipping forces the nail to bend and can cause micro-breaks further down in the nail. File in one direction, not like a see-saw. I keep several conveniently-located emery boards, so that if my nails start feeling rough, I can quickly file them before they snag and break.
There’s nothing hard about long nails, but they do require me to be mindful about which chemicals I come in contact with. And that’s it! Like most things on this blog, there is no magic product. The solution is in a few simple changes in lifestyle.