They tear. They peel. They’re paper-thin. They’re driving you nuts. If you have weak fingernails, you know what we’re talking about. Anyone looking to strengthen his or her fingernails has probably read tons of contradictory advice. Here are the three myths you’ll run in to most often, followed by our top five expert tips:
1. Eating Gelatin or Protein Supplements
The theory behind eating gelatin for nail strength is that gelatin has protein in it. This is true. In some cases gelatin is made from keratin, which is the exact same protein that’s found in fingernails—and also horse hooves, which used to be used in gelatin. In general, eating lots of protein isn’t going to help your fingernails. Most Westerners, even those who don’t eat animal products, have plenty of protein in their diet. People with real protein deficiency are rare, and will have more pressing symptoms to worry about beyond weak fingernails!
2. Soaking Your Nails In Gelatin Or Water
Soaking your hands in water is really bad for your nails. Gelatin contains a lot of water, even if it is jellyish, so the same problem applies. If you want to soak your nails, you should be soaking them in lotion or oil.
3. Eating Apples, Garlic, or Onions
The logic behind this tip is that nails contain a lot of sulfur as well as protein, and apples, garlic, and onions are rich in sulfur, so they should help your nails. While it’s true that both nails and certain foods contain sulfur, and that onions and garlic and apples are all part of a healthy balanced diet, there’s no evidence that you can cure weak nails just by eating more of those foods. Eat your fruits and veggies, sure, but don’t expect it to miraculously cure your nails.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is a pound of cure. Here are five ways you can help your weak nails and ensure strong healthy nail growth in the future.
1. Avoid Overexposure to Water
Constantly submerging your nails in water can, paradoxically, dry out your nails. If you spend a lot of time with your hands in water, make sure you protect your hands with gloves wherever possible, and take time to apply a rich hand cream once or twice a day, rubbing it well in to the nails and cuticles. Nail-Aid's Cuticle Cure is made specially for this purpose.
2. Don’t Use Your Nails as Tools
If you must peel off a sticker, unscrew a screw, or remove a splinter, use a tool, not your nails. Repeated exposure to stress can cause the nails to split, tear or peel.
3. File Your Nails, Don’t Saw Them
Rubbing your nails back and forth with a buffer or an emery board causes damage to the nails. When you’re shaping, only drag the emery board in one direction and don’t use too much pressure. Also, avoid using the grinding side of a buffer more than once a month, as this can wear down the surface of nails until they’re very thin (you can use the smooth polishing side as much as you like).
4. Don’t Nibble!
Yes, we know: old habits die hard. But biting your nails really does affect their strength over the long term. You’re not only chomping the nails off with your teeth, you’re also exposing the nails to the water in your saliva over and over again, which, as noted above, really dries out the nails. Find a way to break the habit, and while you’re weaning yourself, use a hand cream daily.
5. Strength From a Bottle
As a supplement to good nail care (leaving them unbitten, gentle shaping, regular moisturizing), you should use quality non-toxic nail treatment formulas to grow, harden, repair, and protect your natural nails. Choose formulas like those from Nail-Aid that are made without toxic and irritating formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate.