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Wednesday 7 June 2017

Eight hacks for better nails

Hands up if you would like better nails! Are your nail weak and flaky, and your cuticles dry and ragged? If so, join the club. Years ago, I had good nails and loved wearing nail polish. But after a five year period of wearing acrylic nails in the late 90s, my nails were never the same.

I made a New Year's resolution I was going to try to improve my nails this year. Tricky question was how. I have always used a cuticle conditioner oil or cream, every day; I eat a diet quite high in protein (said to be good for nails) and I always wear rubber gloves in the kitchen.

But I looked into other ways of improving my nails, and they are definitely looking better. Here's the "Before," three months ago:
The "before" shot in Is This Mutton's? article on how to improve your nails with eight simple hacks
The nails were very flaky and would split into layers as soon as they started to grow. They were forever snagging on things. I've always had a tendency to pull at my cuticles and so they are quite thick around the base of the nail, and dry. The nails had longitudinal ridges.

I took a step back and analysed how I treat my hands and nails. When I'm on holiday, and particularly in the sun, my nails improve hugely. So I guessed that hard work was part of the problem. I was using very hot water, albeit with rubber gloves on, for kitchen chores. I was constantly washing my hands using those cheap £1 anti-bacterial hand washes. And in the garden, I used to abandon my gardening gloves to do "precision work" like weeding.


1. Find a good nail strengthener 

I've tried a number of nail strengthening products in the past. Laurie from Vanity and Me recommended Seche Vite top coat, and I discovered they have a product called Perfect Nail Rebuild. It doesn't seem to be on sale in the UK but I got it on Amazon for £8.73. I use this once a week. It gives a clear glossy finish like a top coat, but actively makes the nails stronger and less likely to break. I've been very pleased with it.

2. Use a good quality hand wash

I ditched the £1 bottles of hand wash and upgraded to Argan Moroccan Rose hand wash from Waitrose. It's still under five pounds, smells divine, and more importantly, doesn't dry out my hands and nails.

3. Leave hand cream everywhere

I was useless with hand cream. I have lots of tubes of it, but despite good intentions, was hardly ever using it. So now I keep it in several places: the bathroom, the kitchen, the office, handbags - and apply whenever I get the chance! I have a couple of favourites including L'Occitane Amande, but really, any hand cream is good provided you keep applying it and like the smell and texture.

4. Buy plastic gloves for gardening and other "precision" tasks

My husband buys in bulk those thin plastic blue gloves, and these are wonderful for weeding in the garden and drive, and protecting your hands when doing precision work that may be dirty. You can get a hundred pairs for just over five pounds on Amazon.

5. Don't use boiling water for kitchen chores

I thought rubber gloves protected me, but I was wrong. Hot water (not boiling hot) is fine.

6. Filing and buffing

When my nails were bad, I was having to file them every day because it seemed the edges were always rough and snagging on things. I use emery boards, which are always better than metal nail files, and tried to file in one direction only, but still had the problem. Since my nails improved, thanks to Rebuild, they are not so rough edged. But I am still careful with how I file them.

Buffing weakens the surface of the nail, so if your nails are already weak, don't do it.

7. Cuticle Care

I still apply cuticle cream every day - it really makes a difference. I like Apothaka's SOS Recovery nail and cuticle oil.  I am trying very hard not to pull at loose skin, or snip away with the scissors. Soaking the fingers in warm water with olive oil for a few minutes, and then gently pushing back the cuticles, helps to stop the cuticle "sticking" to the nail bed. 

8. What to eat for good nails

Years ago the advice was always to eat jelly cubes! Do you remember? Nowadays we're told to eat foods rich in vitamins B, found in lean meat, whole grains and dairy produce; iron, found in high quantities in red meat; zinc found in lean meats, shell fish and whole grains, and vitamin A which can be found in oily fish, orange/yellow and deep green vegetables. 

9. Use good quality products for your manicure

Try to avoid those big cheap bottles of nail polish remover and go for those free of acetone. Look for products that contain aloe vera and vitamin E. Always use a base coat, particularly if you're using dark or brightly coloured polishes which may stain your nails  (I use the Rebuild product as a base coat if I'm applying nail polish on top). Finish off with a top coat to help preserve your manicure.

My nails now 

The "after" shot in Is This Mutton's article on how to improve your nails: eight simple hacks
There's still room for improvement but they are not so weak now: they have started growing without splitting, and the cuticles are less ragged. The ridges are sometimes hereditary, so if your mother has them, chances are you will too. But I find they improve whenever I use Rebuild or basecoat.

Sharing this post with Catherine at Not Dressed As Lamb, #SaturdayShareLinkUp, and Rena at Fine Whatever.


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  1. You described my nails to a T. They started doing all of those things a few years ago. Thanks for doing all the legwork getting these great tips. I was plotting up baskets today and used some thin gloves, bought for cat "accidents" (bought in 100s from decorating store). I couldn't find my gardening gloves. They held up surprisingly well. When my work was finished I found the gloves hanging on the grape vine! Will try that Waitrose wash, sounds gorgeous. But I succumbed whilst in the UK recently and got my nails gelled. And now I'm addicted to the stuff!

  2. I must admit, I have been thinking about gel nails....but bit put off after my experiences with acrylic nails and how they ruined my own nails.

  3. Thank you for the mention Gail! I'm glad you like the Seche Vite brand. I wouldn't be without that base coat! I can't wear rubber or latex gloves unfortunately.Years of hairdressing have really taken their toll on my hands.Your nails have really improved, so your work is paying off. xx

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  5. Just discovered this post. Full of great tips. I have been wearing tips which keep my cuticles looking nicer but are hard on my real nails underneath. And I am really a natural nail girl. Maybe this summer I can work hard in strengthening mine. Like the idea of having hand lotion everywhere and applying cuticle cream nightly.


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