When we try to fix brittle nails, we often default to cuticle oils and manicures. But that’s only one (very small) piece of the puzzle. As a part of our body’s barrier and protection mechanism, our nails are an integral part of our physiology – they aren’t just there for looks.
As we go about our days, our body is hard at work creating them and making sure they’re strong enough to protect our relatively soft digits. But like all things that need to grow, it takes a well-functioning body to build thick, healthy nails. Though topical nail care is important too, we wanted to shine a spotlight on the internal changes that can contribute to growing better nails.
Here’s our holistic approach to strengthening brittle nails -– no nail hardeners required.
The Holistic Fix for Brittle Nails
Growing the healthiest nails requires paying attention to every phase of our nails’ lifespan. Roughly divided into two, this would encompass the ‘growing’ phase and the ‘maintaining’ phase, both equally important!
Growing Healthy Nails
Similar to our hair and skin, our nails are dead skin cells, mostly made of keratin, that get pushed out when newer cells are made. So of course, keratin production plays a huge role in determining the type of nails we end up with.
Keratin is made through a complicated protein synthesis process involving amino acids that we wouldn’t be able to explain in detail. But what we can tell you is that when your nails are weak and brittle, it’s often a sign that a part of this process is awry. This could be due to a lack of nutrients or energy, or more simply put, a poor diet or excess stress.
Nutrients Needed for Nail Growth
You can’t make lemonade without lemons, and you can’t make nails without amino acids. The secret to strong, healthy nails is a balanced diet that encourages healthy levels of amino acids, which then help boost keratin production.
Here’s what to look out for:
- Omega 3 fatty acids: These free fatty acids are super important in supporting our body’s natural functions. Fish oil has not only been connected with healthier nails but shinier hair and clearer skin as well.
- Collagen: Collagen is a complex protein that contains a host of amino acids, some of which are essential for keratin production. The amino acid arginine, in particular, has been connected with longer and stronger nails.
- Biotin: Biotin works with other B vitamins to create amino acids in turn boosts keratin production. In one study, researchers found that a biotin supplement helped increase nail plate thickness by 25%.
How Stress Relates to Our Nails
For a collection of dead skin cells, our nails can surprisingly say a lot about our mental health. The connection between our nails and our mental health lies in the fact that creating our nails requires energy. When our body is under a lot of stress mentally or physically, our body tends to put all of our energy repairing our body while neglecting lower-priority items, like creating our nails.
The result can take the form of brittle nails or even horizontal ridges across our nails if our nail production completely takes a pause. The lesson here is that in addition to supplementing our diet, we need to take care of our mind too.
Maintaining Healthy Nails
So we mentioned stress is generally not good for our nails, and that actually includes topical stress as well. Things like pushing against our nails, removing our cuticles or keeping our nail polish on for too long are all stressors that keep our nails from thriving.
Here are some important tips for your nails to live their best lives:
Keep your nails short
Long nails are beautiful, and we truly love them here. But we can’t deny that more length translates to more attacks on our nails. Having long nails means that they’re more susceptible to bending and taking on stress every time we tap into a keyboard. This doesn’t mean you can never have long nails, but to build a good foundation, keep your nails short until you start building thicker, healthier nails.
Give them breaks
Though nails do not need to “breathe” necessarily, having nail polish on them all the time can still dry them out which results in weak nails. As your nails start to show cracks and peels, this creates an unhealthy condition where unwanted infections can thrive. Wearing nail polish for extended periods of time can also lead to keratin granulation, which is a result of extremely dry nails. We’d say give your nails at least a few days to rest between your manicures.
Be gentle with your cuticles!
Like our nails and skin, our cuticles are there for an important reason: protection. Cutting your cuticles can create open spaces for infections to occur. The goal should be healthy cuticles, not lack of cuticles. If you want to prolong your manicure, gently push the cuticles back after a hot shower or a warm soak instead.
Looking to dress up your nails? Check out our latest collection of spring-inspired nail wraps here.
Have other questions / ideas about nail care? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!