The first kind of ‘self-art’ I ventured into—referring to art that you wear—was nail polish. (This is a nail polish detail that ended up in one of my short stories about my Belgian childhood; a copper-red whose matching lipstick was Revlon #54 in the late 70s haha 🙂 ) No doubt it was at least in some ways linked to my love of watercolor painting, an activity I was first introduced to as a young kid in school.
Fast forward to decades later and I’ve since also made some art out of old, dried out nail polishes. Unsurprisingly I also enjoy other forms of artistic expression, such as makeup and fashion, but one thing I love about nail art is how long-lasting it is, and that it can instantly make you feel glam, especially if you tend to spend more time at home / inside (in which case you may be in lounging attire—YES! 😀 )
Years ago in college I was finally talked into getting my nails done at a salon for the first time ever. And while I indulged a few more times, it was never my favorite way of acquiring nail art. The fact that some technicians scrubbed my cuticles so hard it left my skin raw and nearly bleeding, combined with the cost of upkeep and weakening of my natural nails made it an easy turn off. Of course, nail salons offer services that can be useful for a variety of reasons; I’ve just decided that I prefer channeling my own creativity through this art form and keeping to my preferable healthful approach—with the added bonus of $aving money in the process! 😀
As such, after years of pursuing and evolving the enjoyable practice of doing my own nails, I’ve learned quite a few things about how to grow strong, natural nails. Here are some tips and products I can recommend as per my long-time experience with them. Enjoy!
1. Get a blood test
Now of course, this is not a strict requirement, but since everything starts with health, getting a Complete Blood Count (CBC) test can help shed light on the overall health and status of various mineral levels. While different things can affect nail health and it might not be an automatic indicator, it’s a good place to start if possible, as it should also help determine which supplements are needed more than others (see below).
2. Proper supplements
Naturally our bodies reveal things to us in a variety of ways, and nails can be one of those indicators. I recommend taking an effective daily supplement, as well as magnesium; an important mineral involved in over 350 functions in our bodies but which our diets are sadly lacking in these days. While a daily supplement will likely have magnesium in it, it’s usually of the type that’s poorly absorbed by our bodies (either magnesium oxide or carbonate), so I specifically look for magnesium glycinate. The magnesium whose content our body absorbs the most is magnesium orotate, which is another, albeit usually pricier option.
It also seems quite common for women to be low in iron; however, you want to use caution if deciding to take some (ie: while I may take my vitamins weekly, I may take iron every few weeks / months, if that).
In general I note that I don’t take my vitamins every day per se. My routine tends to be a few times a week, which works just as well, but as mentioned above, this is an instance where having blood test results can help shed light on what your particular needs may be.
Also, I will add that I personally don’t have a medical studies background, however pharmacy / health / healing is a vocation that has run in my family for generations. As such, I’m humbled and thankful for this valuable resource, and to keep learning about this subject in various ways. (I will say in the disappointing, if not shocking, instances when some doctors have proven indifferent and/or pretty unhelpful, we have been glad to do our own ‘educated research’; something which surely many people have also dealt with.)
Daily women’s vitamin – MegaFood Women’s One Daily (many vitamins I’ve tried smelled / tasted weird and gave me gag reflex; not so with this one, and I do feel a difference when I run out)
Magnesium Glycinate – Doctors Best High Absorption Magnesium
Magnesium Orotate – Dr. Hans Nieper Magnesium Orotate
3. Use acetone-free nail polish remover
For a while the main issue I had with my nails was that they would start peeling. It was so annoying and I couldn’t figure it out… and I’m gasping as I write this, because I kinda can’t believe I was even using 100% pure acetone at some point! Needless to say I was drying out my nails like crazy, but thankfully I eventually discovered acetone-free nail polish remover. While it’s also true that peeling could be caused by other things, what I can say is that this switch made a huge (unsurprising?!) impact on my nail health. If you have this nail issue (and even if not), I would recommend this easy first switch and seeing if it helps!
I’ve recently started using Karma Naturals Nail Polish Remover with soybean oil and lavender and I’m LOVING it!
4. Use a crystal glass nail file
Crystal glass nail files are meant to be gentler on the nails. Generally, it’s around $10 and is a great investment since they’re meant to last forever (they are washable with soap and water).
Now, a word of caution. I initially bought a set of 2 or so on eBay, and soon discovered they were actually fakes; the telltale sign being that the top coating started coming off! Definitely not the ‘lifelong’ deal I wanted! This was years ago, but of course they’re still available pretty much all over (a warning sign may be a large set selling for very cheap). Here’s a useful quick video on what to watch out for:
Given the issue with counterfeits, I would advise purchasing from an official retailer such as Sephora, or basically any trusted seller after doing some research.
(I got mine on Etsy, so trusted sellers are out there 😉 )
After filing your nails, you want to buff them to smooth the surface. 10+ years ago I never did this (it was also just the start of the internet age, so not as much access to info) and needless to say, nails would get chips, catch onto fabric, etc. and rip. Eek!
A great nail buffer I’ve used for years is the Revlon CrazyShine nail buffer.
6. Don’t cut your cuticles
I’ve done this a few times, and though nothing extreme happened (well, aside from making myself bleed a little 😦 ), I’ve since found that it’s not only unnecessary, but is actually a risk in different ways.
Pushing cuticles back with a rubber cuticle pusher is all you need.
With active, demanding lifestyles, hands can easily become dehydrated and dry, which is why moisturizing is key. While I might use some lotion during the day, my favorite is heavy moisturizing at night, when you’re sure to get a solid amount of uninterrupted ‘hydration time’ (haha). In the evening I tend to use pure essential oils, such as sweet almond, grapeseed, jojoba, etc. or the great multi-purpose Smith’s Rosebud Salve.
Hand lotion – This Nature’s Gate Rose hand cream is full of essential oils
Sweet Almond oil – Aura Cacia Sweet Almond oil
Smith’s Rosebud Salve – Great heavy-duty moisturizer. This can also be applied on your cuticles around your nails before a manicure for easy cleanup, in case nail polish gets in the wrong place (since the nail polish can’t stick to it, it’ll slide right off).
8. Wear protective gloves
Unsurprisingly, wearing gloves during home, yard and other work is another key factor in nail health, especially with water and soap from doing dishes that can quickly disrupt the hands’ moisture levels.
9. Don’t use nails as tools
There may be minor times when it calls for it (which shouldn’t be a big deal), and when nails are long it can almost feel ‘natural’ (haha) to use them as such, but making a conscious effort not to will benefit your nails overall. In cases where deep scraping, scratching, etc. is required, just use some other tool.
10. Consider the nail polishes you use
In recent years, many nail product companies have become increasingly ‘3-4-5′ free, which basically refers to being free of harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), etc. Just how harmful these chemicals actually are when used in nail polish may be debateable, but it’s still ideal to be informed. And anyway; if you can get nail polish without these ingredients in them, why wouldn’t you?!
It’s a few years old, but AllLacqueredUp has a useful post with the status of a range of brands for quick reference (keeping in mind the info may have changed since then… Although one would hope that, if so, it’s for the better rather than the inverse!)
Here are a few more recent posts on non-toxic polishes:
Bustle — 9 Non-Toxic Nail Polish Brands You Should Start Using Immediately — I will do a quick shout out to the awesome Wet ‘N Wild nail polishes, which are featured in this list and are an amazing affordable line to check out!
So there we have it! I will leave with a closing thought that a good sign of nail health is that they’re flexible (as in they can bend some), since being too hard is what makes them break on impact.
I hope these tips were useful! What are your own nail care tips? Share in the comments below! And have a happy and healthy 2017! 🙂