natashatasha wrote:I've a question about fingernails (I do hope it's alright to put it in this thread) — I've noticed in a lot of pictures and in real life, the ends of fingernails are pure white. However, mine are a dull, translucent grey. I originally thought that it may be a clean fingernails thing, but after being very careful to clean them out perfectly, they’re still the horrible colour
I do have more questions about nailcare, though — it was suggested to me that a clear varnish helps 'strengthen' then nails (whether it actually strengthens the nail or simply provides structural reinforcement wasn't made clear to me), but a cheap one could weaken it. Is this true? If so, what's the divide between cheap and reasonable (i.e. what are reputable brands)?
Also, I read some stuff about pushing one's cuticles ... what's the point of this?
Healthy nails contain some water and oils, which helps keep them flexible and looking nice; damaged nails tend to lose some of their moisture content, which makes them brittle and more prone to further damage such as chipping, cracking, flaking and splitting. And damaged nails (or cuticles) can also harbour bacteria or fungi (like tinea) that can weaken and discolour the nail or cause it to grow unevenly. So the first step in having nice nails is to keep them well-manicured so that any damage is kept to a minimum.
Nail clippers or scissors should generally be avoided, as they put undue stress on the nail, so only use them to repair a damaged nail. Normal manicuring should be done with an emery board and nail buffer(s). I guess there are tons of YouTube videos demonstrating the proper techniques, but feel free to ask here.
It's also a Good Idea to avoid exposing your nails to strong cleaners and other chemicals which will deplete the nails of their protective moisture content, and if you do get such things on your hands try to replace that moisture ASAP. You can buy various products that are designed to nourish and protect nails, but simple vitamin E cream works fairly well (in my experience), although if my hands or nails get exposed to a strong cleaner I try to massage something a bit more intense into them: almond oil is recommended, but even olive oil works well. I also like to use Vaseline Hand and Nail cream regularly.
Regularly massaging oils, etc, into the nails not only restores the moisture content to the nail and surrounding tissues, it also helps the blood circulation to the nail bed and the cuticle, assisting the new nail growth. Healthy nail beds are important: if the nail bed is damaged nail growth can become uneven, causing the nail to twist, and of course damaged nail beds can harbour bacteria or fungi.
Nail hardeners do give structural support to nails but they also protect nails and help them retain their moisture content. Good nail hardeners contain ingredients that will actually be absorbed by the nail, improving its strength. But as mentioned earlier in the thread, nail polish removers can weaken nails because the removers contain solvents which can remove the protective oils from the nails. So after using a nail polish remover you should wash your hands well to remove any left-over remover and massage some oil into your nails and cuticles. If you want to try a good nail hardener, ask at your local pharmacy for assistance, although your supermarket probably has acceptable cheaper products available - the Sally Hansen range has a reasonably good reputation.
On the topic of cuticles: if you want healthy nails, look after your cuticles! Some people like to push their cuticles right back, since they think it makes the nail look longer and nicer, but the modern approach to nail care discourages this practice, since it's too easy to damage the cuticle. Of course, you don't want big ugly cuticles growing all over you nails , but if you massage your nails regularly and keep them healthy, that shouldn't be an issue, and you'll only need to gently push them back a little bit to have nice-looking cuticles.
Healthy nails have an off-white translucent appearance; they shouldn't look a dingy grey colour. If you suspect that your nail health and poor colour may be due to bacteria or fungus, I recommend massaging tea tree oil into them on a daily basis (eg after your morning shower). This oil is very good at clearing up such conditions, but it can also dry out the nails a bit (especially if you use the diluted tea tree oil, which contains alcohol), so you need to follow-up the tea tree with a nourishing oil. I suggest that you give the tea tree around half an hour to do its work before applying the nourishing oil.
Nail health can also suffer if you are stressed, run down, or have a poor diet. Make sure you are getting plenty of B group vitamins, calcium and silica in your diet (oats are a very good source of silica).
Hormones also affect nail growth - men tend to have stronger nails, but women's nails tend to be more flexible and less brittle. So if you start on HRT, expect some changes in your nails. Of course, nails take a while to grow, so it can take some time before such changes are apparent.
Anyway, that's enough for now. I hope this helps.