Optimize Nail Health to Grow Long, Strong and Healthy Nails

This post probably won’t be for my gentlemen readers out there (unless you like to paint your nails…more power to you…) but still, I want to talk about nails, and particularly all the dangers behind acrylics, gel nails, common nail polish and nail care.

Nail picture

A lot of women love the look of long nails because they believe it looks sexy and polished. It’s not a problem if you like to have nice looking nails, but it IS a problem if you are constantly getting gel on your nails, having acrylics on your nails, and using conventional nail polish.

What’s the deal with acrylics? Safe or not?

red and white manicure with love print

Acrylics are fake nails that are placed over your real nails. A lot of people don’t know this, but acrylic nails are quite damaging and dangerous to your health. Most acrylic nails contain a toxin called Methyl Methacrylate. MMA is classified by the FDA as a poisonous and deleterious substance, but it is still being used in some lower quality salons. It causes the area underneath your nails to become extra sensitive and prone to infection. Worse than that, it can lead to terrible side effects such as respiratory problems, permanent loss of sensation in the fingertips and deformities. What happens if the nail rips off, is that the gap will provide an environment for bacteria to grow, leading to a nasty infection that will probably require antibiotics. Acrylics also cause inflamed cuticles, particularly if the tools used to put on the acrylics are worn out. Depending on the strength of your nails, acrylics can cause splitting. If you already have thin nails, it is basically a disaster waiting to happen. Acrylics also make your nails more likely to break or at the very least, become very weakAllergic reactions have also been associated with acrylics.

How about gel nails? Is that better than acrylics, because your real nails are not replaced?

Unfortunately, although gel manicures are a much better choice over acrylic nails, they still come with dangers. The ultraviolet lights used for gel manicures, are the same bulbs used in tanning beds. This means they increase your risk for skin cancers and wrinkles. To reduce this risk, it is very important to go to a salon that uses LED lights which produce less UV. In addition, to remove gel manicures, the fingers and nails must be soaked in a substance called acetone. Acetone is very toxic and flammable. Ingestion or inhalation can lead to lung, throat, and eye irritation. Intense exposure can even cause comas, seizures, kidney damage and even death. Um, no thanks. I’d rather avoid this chemical at all costs. After all this research I’m horrified to think I used to get gel manicures on the regular. I would then pick off the gel when I was bored, leading to even more irritation and damage.

Okay, so gel nails is bad, acrylic nails are worse…but what about a regular old manicure?

Trust me, I love a fresh manicure as much as the next person, but unfortunately, there are so many chemicals lurking in traditional nail polish (think O.P.I for example). Our body can absorb chemicals through nail polish. I have discussed this before with skin care (everything you put on your skin is absorbed into your blood stream) and unfortunately, it doesn’t end when it comes to nail polish. A chemical called TPP, or triphenyl phosphate is in most nail polish, and it makes the product stick strongly to the nail. There have been studies about this chemical’s potential to disrupt hormones. There is still no strong research showing a clear link, but I personally don’t want to take my chances.

In addition to TPP, nail polish contains the following toxins:

  • Toluene, which causes reproductive harm and is also found in gasoline
  • Formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen
  • DBP, (dibutyl phtlate) which is banned in Europe because of its endocrine disruption factors
Can I never get a manicure again?

NO! Of course not. We obviously want to have pretty looking nails sometimes, especially for special events. Many more nail salons are now offering non-toxic nail polish, and although you usually have to pay a bit extra, this is SO worth it, and the results come out the same! There are also so many non-toxic brands of nail polish now, and if you don’t like painting your own nails, I highly recommend bring in your own nail polish to the salon and most places will do it for you. Here are some brands I like: Kure Bazaar (Detox Market) Mineral Fusion (Whole Foods) and ella+mila.


Here are some tips to maintain long, strong, healthy looking nails easily:
1) Healthy diet is key.

Pan seared salmon

Duh… This should not come as a shock. I am a firm believer that food is medicine. I recommend getting your vitamins to grow nails from food as opposed to a supplement. The vitamins you should focus on are biotin, folic acid, iron, B12 and zinc. To fulfill these requirements, I recommend consuming flaxseeds, blueberries, grass-fed red meat and organ meats, wild caught seafood like salmon, organic eggs, almonds, brazil nuts and dark leafy greens.

2) Massage some oils onto your fingertips and into your cuticles.

Oils I recommend to use are Vitamin E Oil, olive oil and coconut oil. I use oils all the time on my skin for facial massages, so I constantly have oil on my hands. In turn, this helps my fingernails grow and my cuticles remain healthy and moisturized.

3) Stop the biting.

And the picking. And the tearing. I totally understand that biting your nails, picking at dead skin, and playing with your cuticles can be kind of addicting, but it is a nasty habit you should avoid to maintain good nail health. First, nails are very dirty and full of bacteria, so it’s not a good idea to ever stick your finger in your mouth. Knowing this might make you less prone to want to bite your nails. Try to replace the biting with chewing gum, or having an elastic band to play with. Also, identify the triggers behind the nail biting. Most often, triggers are boredom, stress or anxiety. This will help you develop a plan to stop biting.

4) Stop painting your nails all the time.

I used to be obsessed with having my nails painted 24/7, but I realized this was not the healthiest for me. I haven’t painted my nails for months, and it doesn’t bother me anymore. You may think that people notice if your nails aren’t painted, but the truth is, no one really cares or observes as much as you may think. Having no polish on your nails will help them rejuvenate and be able to grow longer. In addition, keep your nails filed regularly, trim your cuticles at home, and keep the cuticles moisturized with the oils mentioned above.

thumb nail photoMy nails

5) Try not to wash your hands too much.

This one is kind of hard for me because I’m a little OCD about having clean hands, but I’ve gotten better over the years about needing to wash my hands all of the time. Excess washing with hot water and anti-bacterial soap, as well as using lots of hand sanitizer, will dry out your hands, kill good bacteria, and make it very hard for nails to grow. Obviously you need to wash your hands sometimes, such as before you eat a meal or before touching your face, but try to remember that excess washing does more harm than good.

I hope these tips help you out if you are looking to grow out your nails, or simply just want them to be healthier and stronger.

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