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They’re way more common (and damaging) than you think.
We’ve all picked off our nail polish or nibbled on our nails at some point. These actions can be stress and anxiety induced but they can also be a reaction to a lull in activity aka boredom. While some of us are able to stop easily before these behaviors become habit forming, for others the behavior becomes chronic.
If you’ve struggled to stop nail biting, chances are you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that twenty to fifty percent of the population bite their nails.
Thankfully, most nail habits can be treated with behavior modification and if severe, medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. The first step is a matter of knowing how to break the pattern and to divert the behavior to an alternative behavior. Here are four common nail habits with helpful solutions so that you can achieve healthy, beautiful nails.
Picking your nail polish may seem harmless, but it can cause the nail more harm than good. Every time you pick or peel your polish, the top layer of the nail can inadvertently be removed, which can cause surface irregularities and white patches, also known as keratin granulations.
There’s something about chipped nail polish that makes us want to pick at it even more. The best course of action? If you see a chip, immediately remove the polish, and reapply a fresh coat. While it may be easier said than done, taking this extra step can help keep your nails healthy.
If you notice that your polish always chips immediately, it may be that your underlying nail needs more TLC. Just like over-processed, dehydrated hair often needs a good deep conditioner, your nails and cuticle need to be effectively hydrated too. The Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System is a wonderful way to prep nails for color application. It creates a smooth, even, healthy canvas, which helps nail polish adhere longer so you’ll get the most mileage out of your manicure.
Those pesky, tiny pieces of loose skin are tempting to pick, but doing so can cause redness, irritation, or bleeding, and can even lead to an infection. Hangnails are often the result of dry skin or lack of nail maintenance, so prioritizing moisture in your nail care routine is important.
Keeping your cuticles hydrated is the best way to prevent hangnails. Step 3 of the Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System is a convenient way to keep the entire nail continuously moisturized. A weekly manicure is also a great idea as it maintains the nails and surrounding skin.
For many, this habit is a result of boredom or stress and habit cessation can be a difficult thing to do. Before you nibble, keep in mind that you are not only weakening your nails, but you are also exposing your yourself to a hotbed of germs and bacteria.
Dr. Dana recommends keeping a diary for a week and writing down every time you catch yourself biting. Specify where you are exhibiting the behavior (ie at the computer vs. in the car), what you think the trigger is (stress vs boredom for example). The idea is to establish a pattern of behavior so that you can trade the biting for a competing, alternative behavior. A very effective method is to wear a bright colored rubber band around your wrist which can serve as a visual reminder and can be manipulated when there is an urge to bite.
If your nails and cuticles are not too severe, a weekly professional manicure can also help because when you spend time and money maintaining your nails, you are theoretically less inclined to ruin them. This would not be recommended for people with severe cuticle damage.
There are some cases where chronic nail biting can result in nail shape changes such as the development of short, wide nails (known as brachyonychia) and is something that may need to be discussed with your doctor.
We’ve all been there. Once you’ve discovered how useful your nails can be to tighten a loose screw or remove labels, it’s hard to resist the urge to use them as tools.
No matter how strong your nails are or how handy they may be in a pinch, using your nails as tools can lead to breakage, splits and damage to the cuticle.
To protect the health of your nails, take some time to find the proper tool that you need or ask someone with short nails to help you. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of creativity to complete the task at hand, but in the end, it’ll save your manicure!
If you’re still struggling with the aforementioned habits after trying our recommended tips, consider seeking help from your dermatologist. Habits are hard to break, especially habits that have been going on for years. Cognitive behavioral therapists are also a very helpful resource for those who need on going strategies and tips.
There are so many beauty myths out there and it’s easy to believe common beauty “advice” when you’ve heard everyone from your grandmother to your bestie swear by them. There are so many nail myths out there, but you have come to the right place to set the record straight!
Eating gelatin is a common myth that was developed during periods in history when protein-rich food sources were costly for the average person.
Because gelatin is an inexpensive protein source derived from pigs, it was considered a solution for nail health. It is true, however, that nails are composed of protein and therefore it is essential to consume a protein-rich diet for healthy nails. Because western society already consumes adequate amounts of protein whether plant or animal based, protein deficiency is extremely rare and so consuming large quantities of jello? Not necessary!
What comes to mind when you hear this myth? Whenever we picture nails breathing, we think of a nail with two little lungs. The take home is nails do NOT breathe! Rather, nails derive oxygen and nutrients via blood flow. This explains why nails tend to become more brittle with age, as our peripheral circulation weakens.
The best way to improve your overall circulation is with regular cardiovascular activity. Hand massage can also help. Simply massage your favorite cuticle oil into the hand, nail, and surrounding skin throughout the day, and you’ll notice your hands warm up immediately. And you’ll benefit from some self-care too!
You might have heard this from a manicurist, but the truth is that trimming the cuticle will not make it grow more.
You can think of the cuticle as the nail’s natural protective seal. It prevents water from entering the nail unit, and this membranous structure is the key to a healthy nail. It is like the grout in between the tiles in your shower because it prevents water from entering the nail unit.
Instead of trimming the cuticle, gently push back the cuticle after a warm shower or bath. Be sure to keep cuticles hydrated with oils or ointments that are rich in essential oils, as creams don’t absorb as well.
Many people believe that white spots on the nail are due to a calcium deficiency. Remember being told to drink your milk as a child? It might surprise you that calcium is not a major component of nail composition.
While there are many causes for white spots on the nail, the more common type of white spot, referred to as punctate leukonychia, is due to minor trauma to the area of the nail where the nail grows from the matrix.
These spots are extremely common in kids because they have thinner, less protective nails and tend to experience more physical play that can result in minor bangs to the nail. These patches are located within the nail plate and will often go away with the outgrowth of the nail.
This is a major myth! In fact, the most issues Dr. Dana has seen in her practice stem from aggressive cuticle removal. Her mantra is that you can’t have a healthy nail if you don’t have a healthy, intact cuticle.
This protective seal, when weakened or damaged, will allow moisture to enter the nail unit, creating a moist environment with yeast, where the nail is trying to grow. Because the new incoming nail is starting out in an abnormal environment, it will not grow normally, and will appear with flaws on the surface, including white patches and waves. In more severe cases, bacteria can enter the compromised cuticle resulting in an infection that will likely require drainage and antibiotics.
One of the most common causes of white patches on the toenails is from prolonged polish use. When toenail polish is left on for long periods of time and then removed, the top layer of nail cells is often removed along with the polish. As a result, white patches, known as keratin granulations, develop on the nail surface. These pesky patches can be treated effectively with the Dr Dana Nail Renewal System. Keep in mind that if these patches don’t resolve, consultation with a dermatologist or podiatrist is recommended.
While Dr. Dana is a huge advocate of using your own manicure or pedicure tools, you can most certainly get an infection from your own tools if they are not properly sanitized regularly.
Make sure to wash your tools with hot, soapy water after each use and then a soak or wipe down with rubbing alcohol. They should be thoroughly dried before storage in an airtight bag. And don’t forget to replace porous items regularly, as they can store bacteria and mold when wet.
Have you ever looked at your nails and wondered why your nails are brittle? Maybe you’ve tried product after product, but still find that your nails can’t shake their weak and fragile state. Or maybe you’re noticing that they’ve become brittle suddenly, and you aren’t sure what to do next.
There are a few causes that may be able to explain this condition of your nails. Let’s discuss what causes brittle fingernails, and what you can do to achieve the strong, healthy nails you’ve always wanted.
Brittle nails are nails that are ridged, tend to split, break, peel and grow poorly. You can categorize their causes in two ways. The first type are intrinsic causes and include natural factors that are difficult to treat like aging, genetics, certain diseases and medications.
The second kind are extrinsic causes, the external areas where you can step in and strengthen your nails through your nail care habits, product and tool choices, and your daily environmental exposures.
We’ll start with some intrinsic causes first as they are important to understand.
Aging is an inevitable reality that we all face and can affect us from the way our skin and bodies change, to the way our nails grow. As we age, our nails’ growth slows down significantly and as a result, our nails are exposed to negative environmental influences for longer periods of time. Aging can also compromise blood flow resulting in less efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to our fingernails and toenails. These factors all contribute to nail fragility.
Aside from aging, we can also take a look at the large role genetics play. All of us are born with our nail matrix, the area where the fingernail grows, but not all are alike. The shape and size of your matrix can determine your nail quality. For example, those who have a small nail matrix will tend to have thinner, more easily breakable nails.
What about the cases where you notice that your brittle nails have developed suddenly without a clear cause? It’s best to speak to your doctor to rule out any potential internal disease like hypothyroidism or anemia.
Certain medications can also make nails more prone to breakage. If you think your medication may be affecting your nail health, ask your prescribing doctor.
Now, onto the factors that we have a bit more control over to help significantly improve our nail appearance, starting with nail products.
There are an abundance of nail treatments on the market. Before clicking ‘add to cart,’ look at the product ingredients first. Harsh chemicals may make brittle nails worse. Here’s what to avoid:
These ingredients can be very damaging to the nail and surrounding skin. Formaldehyde starts off by hardening the nail, but over time it will increase the likelihood of your nail separating from the nail bed. Additionally, formaldehyde can cause severe allergic reactions to the surrounding skin, causing irritation, swelling, and pain.
This is another ingredient that can impact the health of your nails by causing them to become dry and dehydrated. It’s often used in nail polish removers as a quick and easy solution for removing your nail polish, gel, and acrylics. If you’re a frequent user of nail polish remover, look for alternatives that have hydrating ingredients and are acetone-free.
When it comes to manicure tools, it’s best to be smart about tool choice. Take a look at some of the nail tools you have on deck. Do you usually use a paper emery board file?
If so, replace it with a glass file instead. Emery files can cause tears in the nails, leading to ridged and split fingernails. A glass file will allow you to get the smooth, desired shape that you want, minus the damage. An added bonus—your polish will be less likely to chip!
While too little moisture can cause problems, excessive water and chemical exposures can also cause brittle nails. In fact, the nail is 1000x more absorptive of water than the skin! As the nail absorbs water, the nail cells expand and contract, putting a lot of stain on the nail thus leading to breakage.
Remember those yellow rubber gloves your mother or grandmother used to wear when they washed dishes? Those are about to become your nails’ savior. When doing wet work like cleaning or washing dishes, wear cotton under the rubber to prevent moist gloves from worsening already weak nails.
On the other hand, there are some situations where this may be harder to do. If you have an occupation where you need to wash your hands frequently, (i.e. health care, restaurants, transportation, etc.) you are likely to be more prone to brittle nails as hand washing is essential. In these instances, prioritizing a treatment to prevent brittle nails will come in handy. Stick with treatments that are rich in phospholipids like sunflower oil, a quality ingredient that has been shown to increase nail flexibility and decrease brittleness.
There’s no question that brittle nails can be discouraging to deal with. The next time you ask, “Why are my nails so brittle?” Think about the causes above to help determine what action you need to take to get on track to lustrous, beautiful nails.