Your at-home manicure tips
The problem: brittle nails
The fix: ‘If nails snap instead of tear, it’s usually because they’re too dry,’ says Marian Newman. ‘A good nail oil applied daily will help enormously. Make sure the oil contains jojoba or avocado oil as these will penetrate the nail layers.’ Nails are typically 18% water, and when they drop below 16%, they can become dry and prone to breakage, so stay hydrated. Also boost your zinc intake – needed for healthy nail growth. Pumpkin seeds and lentils are good sources.
The problem: splitting, flaking or peeling nails
The fix: Do a weekly mini at home manicure: ‘Apply oil to each nail and the surrounding skin, then remove the edge of the nail with a very fine nail file – this is like trimming split ends on hair, but nails need weekly attention. This way, the peeling part of the nail will eventually grow out,’ says Newman. ‘A keratin treatment applied daily for a minimum of two weeks will penetrate the nail plate and support healthy growth. Be sure to wear gloves when doing household chores – water seeps between the peeling layers and makes them worse. If nothing else – wear nail polish. Even a clear top coat will help protect your nails.’ And don’t forget diet– studies have found correlation between low magnesium and flaky nails – up your intake with spinach, Swiss chard and pulses.
The problem: thin or soft nails
The fix: If your nails are soft and bend easily, ensure you’re getting enough protein and vitamin A (found in green and orange veg). Also take a vitamin D supplement, which supports calcium absorption, needed for strong nails. ‘If they’re naturally thin, I’m afraid you can’t change this,’ says Newman, ‘but a quality gel polish from a good salon will help protect them and allow them to grow. They may have been over-buffed, so avoid all buffing.’
The problem: discoloured nails
The fix: ‘If discolouration occurs without any known reason, then a visit to the GP or a podiatrist is recommended in case it’s an infection,’ says Newman. ‘If it’s caused by a nail polish, hair dye or similar, it will only be superficial and a very light buffing with a three-sided buffer will remove it. Do not soak in lemon water as is sometimes recommended – this does not help the quality of nail plates.’
The problem: sore cuticles
The fix: Hangnails, those pieces of skin that jut out around your nails, are common, says Newman. The good news is that an at home manicure can easily remedy them. ‘It’s safe to carefully remove them with sharp cuticle nippers: place the blades over the hangnail, squeeze and release. Do not pull!’ Soothe cracked cuticles with an oil, and if the skin is red, inflamed, itching or peeling, or if the nail is separating from the nail bed, seek professional advice. ‘This may be an allergic reaction to a nail product. Ask your GP to refer you to a dermatologist.’ Apply a moisturiser to dry irritated skin around the nails and always protect with gloves – when washing up, for example – to prevent secondary infection.