How to: Get healthier, glossier nails

15 Sep 2007 00:00 AM | Posted by bh'sLeanne
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Healthy, glossy nails don't always come easy. Like hairand skin, some strike it lucky with great genes but you're certainlynot alone if your nails need a little TLC in order to look their best. To help you train your talons into top form, we asked nail guru and thefounder of nailcare brand Moncina, Catalina Lechner, for her expertadvice on some common nail conditions...

Brittle nails that crack and breakeasily

"The most common cause of nail brittleness is a lack of moisture andoil in the nail," explains Lechner. " Constant washing with water, soapand detergent strips nails of both these importantproperties while the water swells the nail plate, causing tiny cracksto enlarge." Suddenly rubber gloves seem a lot more glamorous, don'tthey?

To increase flexibility, you also need to ensure that your nails don'tlose moisture. "Oils slow water evaporation from the nail plate, whichincreases moisture content," she explains. "This results in a lessbrittle, more flexible nail plate," Lechner says.

Frequent use of nail varnish can also compromise the integrity of yournails. "The constant act of adding and removing polish will also causenails to become brittle," Lechner explains. To lessen the impact ofregular polishes, rotate the types of polish you use frequently and optfor a gentle remover formulatedwithout acetone.

Beautyheaven's productpicks:

Sally Hansen Teflon Tuff Strengthener,$15.95
With a resilient coating that helps resist water absorption, thispaint-on treatment helps resist cracking. However it also works toprevent the loss of  necessary moisture, encouraginga durable flexibility.

Creative Nail Design Solar Oil,$13.95
This blend of Vitamin E, rice bran, sweet almond and jojoba oils worksto penetrate the nail for increased moisture and resilience.

Nails prone to peeling

Nails can start to peel when overworked or when the layers of the nailstart to deplete. "And the only thing you can really do about it," saysLechner, "is coat them with a hardener."

This will help prevent tearing but using a hardener on soft nails canbe as much of a hindrance as a help, Lechner warns. "Ingredientscommonly used in hardeners will do exactly that -  they willeffectively harden the nail -  but they can also dry the nail out andmake them brittle," she stresses. And, because they form a film overthe nail surface, hardeners can make it difficult to replenish the nailwith a moisturising product.

The compromise is to make sure that you regularly massage amoisturising oil into the bare nail before applying hardeningsolutions.

Beautyheaven's productpick:

Creative Nail Design Soft Nails TreatmentPack, $44.95
Containing Toughen Up Base to fortify and Air Dry top coat to seal andprotect  the nail, this 3-step treatment also includes Solar Oil toensure that the nail stays healthy and moisturised.

Discoloured, stained or yellowednails

"Nails are made from keratin, a form of protein," details Lechner."Though, like hair, they are dead. Nails are highly permeable and caneasily be discoloured by the dyes in nail polish or clothing, food,cigarette smoke, beauty products like tanning lotion and householdcleaners."  UV rays can also lead to unsightly yellowing.

The trick is to guard the natural nail from external elements like sun,chemicals and nail polishes with protective bases and top coats. Italso helps to give your nails a break from coloured polishes and go fora more natural look.

Beautyheaven's productpicks:

Moncina Fluffy Duck Buffer,$14.95
One side of this two-step buffing system gently smooths the nailsurface while the other gives a super-glossy finish without the use ofpolish. And it slips conveniently into your handbag for touch-ups onthe run.

Mavala Mava-White,$16.95
With pigments that react to UV light  and work to perfect nail colour,this treatment works to disguise discolouration. It may be worn aloneover bare nails or as a protective base coat under colouredvarnish.

Art of Beauty Zoya Armor Top Coat,$19.90
This fast-drying, clear top coat forms an impenetrable seal over thenail and also features a UV filter to prevent sun damage andyellowing.

Strong nails start on theinside

When it comes to our health and beauty, what we do on the inside showsclearly in our external appearance. And our nails are no different."Poor nutrition can certainly make nails weaker and malnutrition andsevere dieting can cause nail plates to become thin and/or weak,"highlights Lechner.  "It can also cause depression lines to occuracross the natural nail."

Supplements can assist a healthy diet in the maintenance of strong,healthy nails. However, Lechner specifies that, because nails mostlycontain protein with very little calcium, "simply adding calcium-richfoods to your diet will not help your nails as is commonlybelieved."

She instead suggests that silica can be of more benefit. "This mineralcan be found naturally in whole grains and vegetables," she details.But there are also silica supplements available from health food storesand chemists.

"It has been shown that a significant improvement in the smoothness ofnails, with less peeling, brittleness and cracking, can occur after aperiod 8 to16 weeks of taking silica supplements.  Improvements notedincluded an increase in nail thickness and strength along with areduction in splitting and chipping."

Beautyheaven's productpick:

Blackmores Celloid Silica Compound,$11.25
This compound supplement helps synthesis and stability of connectivetissue in the nail. It's also good for he health of skin andhair.

Catalina's Top Nailcare Tips

* Rub cuticle oil into each nail and cuticle with a gentle motion - theadditional warmth from this action assists product penetration. Also,cuticle oil works more effectively than cream because it permeatesnails and cuticles more effectively.

* The secret to keeping nails looking neat and tidy is to file often. As each nail grows at an individual speed, with a growth spurt insummer that then slows a little in winter, you may find that your nailsare uneven and look a bit untidy. Filing often keeps peskylittle tears at bay and also keeps all your nails at the samelength. (Beautyheaven's product pick: Ms Manicure Quick Fix Kit, $1.95-  cute matchbook of 12 colourful emery boards to keep in yourpurse.)

*When filing, shape your nails in one direction only, parallel to thenail bed, and dont curve into the corner of the nail.

* Short, squared-off nails are the most durable and also the easiestnails to maintain. Having pointed tips causes the nail to bendexcessively and the nail's structure can weaken as they repeatedlystrike a surface.

* If you are about to give your nails a splash of colour, do not soakthem first.  Soaking your nails hydrates and swells the nail, causingpolish to chip as your nails later shrink away form the enamel.

* A regular massage of your hands, and specifically your nail beds,stimulates blood flow and promotes nail growth.