Nail Clinic: How To Stop Bad Nail Habits

nail polish container

Flaking, breaking, snapping, peeling, biting: many of us are afflicted by nail ‘woes’ which stand between us and and manicure ‘perfection’. In fact, nail woes rank very highly, when it comes to advice requests to beautybible.com. (If there’s a woman out there who’s 100 percent happy with her nails – particularly as the years roll by – we’ve yet to meet her.) So here’s our wisdom on tackling some of the most common nail habits.

If you have dry and ragged cuticles

As we get older, everything just seems to become drier – we’re tempted to say ‘desiccated’ – and cuticles are a case in point. So: we keep cuticle oil on our bedside tables, within easy reach, because nightly massage with oil goes a long way towards fixing the problem. It also encourages nail growth. The Dr.Hauschka Neem Nail Oil Pen is brilliant; neem is one of the most effective nail-strengtheners, and this easy-to-use tool features a gentle sponge ‘nib’ to push cuticles back (it comes with some replacement nibs).

If your nails are flaky or peeling

Be aware: nails do take weeks, often months to improve overall – but nourishing the nail bed is key. Submerging hands in water isn’t helpful – but it’s what rubber gloves were invented for (if you really can’t bear the feel of them, try surgeons’ latex gloves, so long as you’re not sensitive to latex; they feel like there’s nothing there). Avoid acetone-based nail polishes and removers and nourish nails at the base with a nightly massage of oil – either a specific nail treatment oil (see above), or even something very simple, such as sweet almond oil. (Every single night – religiously!) NB Jo has had exponential improvements in her nail growth – and her nails have stopped flaking (which was a real problem) – since she started removing polish last thing at night, and instead of re-polishing straight away (as she used to), she drenches nails in oil overnight. She then re-varnishes in the morning, having scrubbed them clean.

While you’re waiting for the TLC to get to work, the short-term fix for flaking or peeling nails is to paint on a protective all-in-one top and base coat (see Nail Magic, below), at the very least, to prevent layers of nail from peeling off and/or catching on clothing. ‘Seal the tips’ of the nail, as many manicurists do, and repaint every couple of days to ensure nails are armour-plated. Resist the temptation to pick at flakes of nail – and don’t be tempted to use a nail file to ‘smooth’ the nail surface and get rid of the flaking; you’ll just ‘thin’ it and make things worse.

If your nails break and snap

Sorry if we’re starting to sound like a broken record, but again, the solution is to nourish the nail bed. The ‘perfect’ nail is both strong and flexible: too strong, and nails will just break when challenged. Sometimes nails become brittle through over-use of a specific hardening product; these should never be used for more than four weeks, or they over-harden the nail – but the exception is the extraordinary Nail Magic Nail Treatment, which can be used as a top coat, base coat or clear polish for up to eight weeks; after that (when you should see vast improvements), use it just once a week for maintenance. We also recommend carrying a balm with you to smooth it into nails and cuticles once or twice daily (we always do it when we’re being kept waiting for an appointment!) – or a pinch, a clear lip balm (such as our Beauty Bible Lip Balm!) will do.

If you’re prone to ridges

Length-ways ridges can respond to very, very gentle buffing your nails need to be naked for this (or oiled, as above). Buff length-ways, but never to the point where you create ‘heat’. Occasionally, a ridge becomes a split, for which the best solution is a ‘patch’ applied at a nail salon, while it grows out, or a false acrylic nail. Yet again (you getting the drift, yet?), you will benefit from boosting nail health while it’s growing out with stimulating oil massage of the nail bed.

If you bite your nails

There’s the option of painting on something that tastes horrible – but even that may not work, as it will eventually wash off, or you’ll just stop using it. A far better disincentive, we’ve observed, is to treat yourself to a really beautiful manicure – perhaps with gels, which stay in place for weeks, and allow your natural nail to grow underneath. Seeing the beautiful finish (and perhaps a gorgeous colour of polish) gives you a strong wake-up call, every time you’re tempted to bite. But nail-biting is like any addiction: to give up successfully, you really need a programme of support and monitoring. Enlist a friend or a ‘buddy’ – or that manicurist – to back you up as you work to quit the habit.

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