Do you have dry, cracked, splitting fingernails during the winter months?
Have you tried several methods to fix your dry nails with little success?
It’s not just your skin that dries out during the winter months; your nails do too!
Nails are part of the integumentary system (skin) of your body and they develop from the outer layer of your skin called the epidermis. The exact same cells that form the outer layer of your skin also form your nails. These cells harden more in your nails, but structurally they share many common features and needs.
Natural oils hold together the different layers of your nails, so cold and dry winter months and lots of hand washing with harsh soaps will dry out this natural “glue.” It’s very similar to the dry skin you experience during the winter months. Therefore your nails need to be nourished with supplemental oils and cared for like any other part of your skin!
Dr. Bailey is frequently asked by her patients about how to care for dry nails. Below are Dr. Bailey’s nail care tips as well as cautions against some common nail grooming practices.
Nail Care Practices to Avoid
1. Cutting Your Cuticles
Dr. Bailey strongly urges you to push back your cuticles, not to cut them. The function of cuticles is to be a seal between your nail and your skin to maintain your natural skin barrier. The act of cutting your cuticles compromises this seal and increases your risk for infections; breaking the seal opens a pocket under the cuticle where germs can enter, grow, and thrive. Many of these infections can become severe enough to require surgical intervention. Simply: Don’t Cut Your Cuticles!
2. Nail Hardening Products
The alcohols, formaldehyde, and other chemicals found in nail hardening products are counterproductive to their main goals. These very chemicals may initially harden your nails, but over time they will dry out your nail oils and change your nail proteins, causing your nails to become brittle or split. Also, choose nail polish removers that are alcohol free for this very reason. Today most modern nail polish products are made without the old and damaging chemical ingredients. Throw out your old polish and buy new polish to be safe.
3. Washing Your Hands with Harsh Soaps
It may seem like a running theme, but the same cause of dry nails comes in a variety of forms, including harsh soaps. Harsh soaps strip the structural oils in both your hand skin and your nails. Most people forget to moisturize their nails when moisturizing their hands. Below we will detail Dr. Bailey’s secrets to properly moisturize your nails.
Dr. Bailey’s Nail Care Secrets
The same concept to fix dry skin can be used for dry nails, but different products are recommended because of the unique structural properties of your nails. You also need to keep up the good work longer because it takes six months to grow a new nail from cuticle to end. As your nails improve, you will see the changes slowly. Dr. Bailey tells her patients that it will take several months to see results of healthy grown nails following a basic nail care routine.
Apply lotions, oils, or ointments to damp nails, especially after washing your hands. Ingredients should include natural oils such as jojoba oil, avocado oil, shea butter, etc. These will aid in locking in moisture to help preserve the cuticle seal and strengthen the nail itself. The trick is to find a thick ointment that will survive the constant use of fingers. Dr. Bailey’s favorite nail moisturizer is Bag Balm, which she applies at night under gloves. Bag Balm is a product originally used by dairy farmers on their cows udders. They noticed that their hard working hand skin healed when they applied Bag Balm to their cows and an iconic American home remedy was born! During the day, Dr. Bailey recommends using a lighter weight moisturizer, her Dry Skin Hand Cream. She recommends applying it all over your hands and your nails after washing. This product contains an advanced formula that both hydrates and protects without being greasy.
Step 2: Clip and File Nails While Wet
Clipping dry nails can split and fracture the layered protein structure of brittle nails. To soften that structure and make it pliable, wet your nails before performing any nail modification methods. Filing or buffing wet nails can reduce further nail splitting by removing any rough edges that may catch on things.
Step 3: Wear Gloves for Rough Work or When Using Harsh Chemicals
This will protect hand skin and nails from any drying chemicals or physical labor that may compromise the protein and lipid structure.
Additional Nail Care Secrets
- Diet: A diet rich in whole foods helps keep nails and skin healthy. Eat a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, natural oils, and fish. Check out Dr. Bailey’s recommendation for a skin healthy diet.
- Vitamin Supplements that Target Nail Growth: Nail vitamin supplements that contain biotin may help to encourage nail growth. She cautions that a healthy diet that includes these ingredients will achieve the same results, as well as improve your overall health.
- Arm yourself with proper moisturizing methods and products.
- Avoid harsh chemicals or other practices that dry out your nails.
Yes, your brittle nails can stay healthy and strong through the winter. Dr. Bailey’s Dry Skin Hand Repair Kit incorporates all her nail care secrets and products to care for both your hands and your nails. It even includes an instruction guide for your complete hand care to maximize your results. If you would like to read a more thorough discussion on Dr. Bailey’s nail care secrets, read her original blog: Doctor’s Advice for Nail Care.
If you have any other dry nail care concerns that we did not address, let us know in the comments below. Also if you have any nail care tips on how you keep your nails presentable during the winter months, please share your tips! Considering how much we use our hands every day, they deserve just as much care and nourishment as the rest of your body.