Well cared for hands help everyone make a great first impression. If you've tried growing longer nails with minimal results, you may want to look to your diet or another underlying medical condition. If you and your diet are healthy, you may want to consider using a nail strengthener before making a commitment to artificial nails or resigning yourself to rough looking hands.
How Do You Know If You Need a Nail Strengthener?
Before you use a nail strengthener, consider potential medical causes for weak nails. You could be having trouble with your nails due to an infection or from poor circulation. It's important to get a doctor's opinion if your nails peel and crack. If your fingernails are discolored, they may be infected, and you may need an antibacterial prescription from your doctor. Circulation problems may be improved with extra massaging of the nail bed or by adjusting your diet, but they can be signs of more serious problems.
Once you have ruled out any health problems, you can look at the two most common reasons for weak fingernails: poor nail protection and poor hydration of the nails. We often think of using a nail strengthener, but it is important that the nail be well hydrated as well. Moisturize your nails often by applying lotions and cuticle oils. Massage the lotion in well to encourage absorption and to stimulate the circulation in the nail. Make sure your diet has enough essential fatty acids and enough protein and B vitamins.
Also get in the habit of protecting your fingernails. When you are using cleaning products, wear gloves to protect your hands and nails. Your fingernails will soften as they are exposed to water, and they will be more prone to tearing. Your hands are exposed to sunlight and chemicals, so it is important to protect them. Always wear sunscreen on your hands and nails when you are outside. Sun damage can harm your fingernails in much the same way as it harms your hair.
If you are following these types of precautions and you still have soft, weak nails, it's time to start using a nail strengthener. You can choose from different types of products. Some are available as a polish, and some can be found in the form of a nail strengthener cream. The form you use is not nearly as important as finding the most effective product for you.
Choosing a Nail Strengthener
Nail strengtheners do not cause your nails to grow. Instead, they protect your nails against splitting and cracking. The best nail strengthener for you will moisturize as well as harden the nail, as both conditions are necessary for healthy nails. Because your nails will be more resistant to damage, it is more likely that they can grow longer.
One type of nail strengthener is a protein strengthener. Check the ingredient list for hydrolyzed collagen or proteins. These proteins help form a protective barrier that prevents the nail from losing moisture. A protein strengthener is usually safe for those with allergies, but you should always test the product on one nail first to check for a reaction.
If your nails aren't overly dry, you can try a nail strengthener with nylon. This type of strengthener is especially good for soft and damaged nails. It bonds with the nail to strengthen the texture of the fingernail. Nylon has a very low risk of allergies as well.
Some nail strengtheners will contain formaldehyde. This kind of nail strengthener is powerful, but it can have harsh side effects. If you experience an allergic reaction, discontinue use immediately. See your doctor if symptoms persist or worsen. It is easy to avoid formaldehyde, as companies offer formaldehyde-free nail strengthening formulas.
Many nail strengtheners are in a polish form that should be applied twice a week. Use thin coats, and apply it as a layer underneath your regular polish. Avoid removing nail strengtheners with acetone polish removers. Always use a non-acetone remover to prevent damage from overdrying. You can also use a nail strengthening cream, which can be applied daily.
What About Diet?
Eating a healthy diet is certainly helpful for strengthening nails. Several nutrients are particularly beneficial to strong nails. Eat plenty of protein from sources like yogurt, meat, eggs, soy and nuts. B vitamins, especially biotin, are good for nail growth. Soy and eggs are both rich in biotin, as well as whole grains and liver. Sulphur minerals like apples, grapes, garlic and onions are especially good for strong fingernails. Calcium is also important to healthy nails and is found in dairy products and broccoli.
Last of all, make sure your diet contains plenty of water. Moisture loss will cause your nails to be brittle and break easily. Believe it or not, your daily coffee may be affecting your nails. Avoid caffeinated beverages because they can leave you dehydrated.
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