Air Drying the Sheets, Hotel Humberto, Tepec, Mexico, originally uploaded by Wonderlane.
Diamond-hard nails are rare to come by naturally, thanks to everyday exposure to dry air and moisture-sapping household products. Fortify your fingertips with these pointers from Anne Chapas, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City.
The basic facts
Your nails are composed of hardened layers of keratin, a protein also found in hair and skin. They grow from an area beneath your cuticle called the matrix. Older cells are pushed out toward the tips of your fingers as new cells form. Dry cuticles are less effective at protecting these new cells, leaving nails brittle.
What to look for
* Hangnails They're signs that your cuticles are parched and aren't preventing moisture loss as your nails grow.
* White spots or vertical grooves These usually indicate you've banged your fingernail with enough force to injure the matrix, which can eventually lead to splitting.
* Easy-to-bend tips Prolonged exposure to moisture (from washing dishes or biting your nails) can weaken the bonds between keratin layers and cause peeling.
* Avoid dehydrators Always wear rubber gloves when you do dishes, resist the urge to nibble on your nails, and use non-acetone nail polish remover, which is less drying than formulas that contain acetone.
* Moisturize often Apply cream immediately after every hand washing and smooth on cuticle oil at least once a day. Try Nivea Smooth Indulgence Hand Cream ($6; at drugstores), packed with healing macadamia nut oil, and OPI Avoplex Cuticle Oil to Go ($8; opi.com for stores).
* Get tough Brush on a strengthening base coat once a week to bond the layers of your nails together. Try Sally Hansen Quick Care Strength Treatment ($10; at drugstores), which has moisture-restoring cactus extract.
* Become a pill popper A daily supplement that contains at least 2.5 milligrams of biotin, a B vitamin, can enhance growth and help harden nails over time. We recommend GNC Biotin 2500 ($16; gnc.com).
EXPERT STRATEGY There's no silver bullet for weak nails. Taking biotin can help, but "keeping your hands and cuticles hydrated is essential for making tips strong and healthy," says Anne Chapas, M.D. * The bottom line "If you moisturize religiously and prevent injury, nails will strengthen on their own--just be patient. They grow about one-tenth of a millimeter per day, which means it takes a fingernail four to six months to look noticeably longer."
Miller, Ellen. "Get knockout nails: fight breaks, splits, and brittleness for good with these simple tips." Shape Apr. 2010: 72. Academic OneFile. Web. 19 Apr. 2010.
Gale Document Number:A223731786
Disclaimer:This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.