Firstly, it’s important to bust the myth that polishes and extensions suffocate your nails. Your nails are made from a natural substance called keratin, a type of protein that protects nails from damage and keeps them strong. In fact, we, or our nail technicians, are causing them harm during the removal process, and that doesn’t just extend to nail drills. If used too frequently or incorrectly, remover polishes, files and buffers, can impact the quality of your nails and stunt their growth.
Onychoschizia (a medical term for splitting nails) can be also caused by washing your hands too frequently. These nail splits will look horizontal and are much more common amongst women. They can also be caused by an all too frequent exposure to the chemicals in nail polish removers, such as acetone, as well as physical stress. If you are suffering from chronic splitting, your best bet is to seek out a dermatologist for specialist treatment and care.
In fact, to avoid nail splitting and damage altogether, you should lengthen the time between nail colour change ups, as opposed to removing shellac or gel and re-applying it seven days later. Looking after your cuticles is also important if your nails are feeling dry and weak. The cuticles seal your nail and if that seal is broken, red, dry or sore, you’re opening your nail up to infection, damage and bacteria from the environment around you.
But before you swear-off gel manicures forever, we asked one of our favourite London-based nail artists, Lauren Michelle Pires for advice on how to bring our fatigued nails back to life.
If your nails are dry, weak or brittle, this is due to a lack of moisture. “It’s why so many people’s nails suffer the most in the cold winter months, Pires explains. “Hand sanitiser has also been a massive faux pas for nails during the pandemic as the alcohol in the ingredients is very drying.” So what can we do now Omicron beckons?
“Wearing gloves when you’re doing the dishes and avoiding cheap alcohol-based hand sanitisers,” Pires continues. “My work friend Cim Mahony makes this incredible sanitiser that is kind to your nails. I’ve used it and it is very conditioning.”
Pires is also keen to encourage a good nail routine. “Applying hand cream and/or cuticle oil in the winter months is vital,” she says. “You won’t see the effects overnight, but you need to be consistent with it! It takes your nails six months to grow a full cycle, but it will be worth it, I promise.”
While Pires agrees that nail enhancements aren’t damaging to your nails, yellowing can be caused by not using the right products. “Not using a base coat when painting strong colours on your nails can cause yellowing,” Pires warns. “A base coat is there to provide a stain-proof barrier between your nail and the polish. Yellow nails might also be a massive giveaway that you’re a smoker. Nicotine in cigarettes can stain the nail, but smoking also blocks oxygen to the fingernails which can cause a yellow hue.”
Pires’ holy grail products? “Sally Hansen’s Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil. It’s heaven sent. Apply this every morning for six months and I guarantee you’ll see results. Mavala makes an ointment called Mava-White which is an optical nail whitener and it helps the nails look healthier (than they actually are) and hides stains and yellowing on the nail plate. Lastly, I have three favourite hand creams: Chanel La Crème Main for when I’m working on shoots, Glossier Hand Cream for when I’m on the go, and CND Hand Cream for when I’m home, fresh out of the bath.”
Inspired? Start getting yourself into a better nail care routine now with my favourite oils, tools and moisturisers below.