Sometimes the only way we realize we need to make a change is when our bodies cry out for help. This was my case when a few months ago my toe nails started cracking in the middle for no apparent reason. I'll skip the part where most of my life my fingernails could not grow past the nail bed without breaking –a sure sign there was something not right with my body– and yet I always wrote it off as something my body wasn't good at doing. Growing nails. And how wrong I was!
So with my toenails falling apart and the fear that I had contracted some nasty something from the yoga studio or the nail place, I rushed to my dermatologist to ask her what was happening and to seek the cure for it asap!
After looking thoroughly through a microscope she reassured me I had not come across an evil fungus, but instead, my nails were so weak and nutrient-deficient that they had started to crack with the pressure high-heels were exerting on them (#modelproblems #modellife #ilovemyjob *cue cynical emoji*). She looked at my fingernails and told me that they were even in worse shape than my toes –yikes! So today I’m going to tell you just how I went from flailing to healthy nails in three months.
The Cure Part I:
The first and most important step to bettering my nails would be to include a daily Multivitamin rich in Biotin, Zinc, Copper and amino acids L-Cystine and L-Methionine. I was to take this for a period of three months. Let me briefly summarize why each component is essential for nail growth:
A water-soluble B-Complex vitamin that aids in the metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids, and glucose. It helps break down the fats in your diet and helps your body produce energy with them. In order for your body to produce healthy nail and hair growth, it needs energy, therefore this ingredient can be crucial in aiding that process.
This element & metal is essential in small amounts in the body. It plays a key role in cell division and cell growth, and is required by many of the body’s enzymes in order to catalyze and aid in protein synthesis. If your body lacks Zinc, you are likely to develop immune-related problems which your body will not have the ‘strength’ to fight off. In relation to nails, lack of Zinc can lead to hangnails, inflammation of the cuticles, white spots, transverse lines and poor nail growth. I believe that primarily low Zinc values were the main culprit of my debilitated nails and I daresay it also had a role in the many years of acne I suffered.
Another important component of our bodies is Copper, a mineral responsible for helping make red blood cells (used to deliver oxygen to your body tissues), forming collagen, and keeps your nerve and immune system healthy. Copper, in this case, is vital to take in combination to Zinc, as both elements react in a peculiar way inside the body (an intake of too much of one can reduce the levels of the other), and therefore, it’s recommended both be taken simultaneously to maintain the correct balance of the two in the body.
These two amino acids play an important role in the formulation of keratin, the principal component of hair and nails. They are semi-essential amino acids which are crucial in the building of proteins (aka: protein synthesis), especially since nail-growth involves a substantial amount of protein synthesis, so making sure that your body receives a good supply of both will ensure that the fibrous-structure protein ‘keratin’ is synthesized adequately.
The Cure Part II:
The second step would be to use a concentrated topical cream applied and massaged into the nail twice a day that contained the amino acids mentioned above, Carnauba Wax and Honeysuckle Extract. These two ingredients had their own importance in the healthy nail journey:
Derived from wax from the leaves of a tree native to north Brazil, acts as a thickener and protector of the nail. It also moisturizes and has emollient properties, which helps the nail to grow strong but not brittle or prone to breakage.
Containing antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties, this extract can help the nail grow healthy and undisturbed by external harmful factors that can cause infection, fungus, and inflammation.
Since I would have to apply this cream for the same three-month period, I would not be able to use nail polish simultaneously. I’d like to point out that it’s a myth that nails “breathe” without polish, because since they are made of keratin –not live tissue– like your hair, exposing them to “air” is not going to make any difference. However going nail polish-free for a while is beneficial to them in the sense that you don’t over-dry the nail by creating continuous damage removing polish with acetone-based removers. Think of it as constantly heat-styling your hair and never pausing to put oil or conditioner on it, after all, they both have similar structures!
Another lesson learned that I loved sharing with you guys. This really was the longest period I have ever conscientiously paid attention to my nails for, and I really did learn so much in the process, from my own research into the matter and the wise advice I received from my dermatologist. Now that I’ve nourished my nails back to health though, I am so excited to go get a fresh mani and pedi! Have your own nail-health concerns? Comment below or reach out to me via twitter or instagram