On the Set
All about nails
Manicure for women
Manicure for men
Repair broken nails
What are nails? Our nails are little miracles that enable us to use our fingers more effectively. Nails are specialized outgrowth of the skin tissue which protects the hypersensitive nerve endings below the nail and on the fingertips. (We all know that "Cut to the quick" means "Ouch!") The nail, much like hair, consists mostly of proteins, plus small amounts of calcium, phosphorous and trace metals. Also, like the hair, most of the nail is made of layers of dead cells together with tiny quantities of moisture and fat. The moisture and fat decrease with age, which is why nails peel more as we get older. The live, growing portion of the nail (the matrix) is at the edge of the cuticle and just behind it.
The cells of the nail consist of keratin, a fibrous protein whose cells can stretch when exposed to water, becoming soft and opaque. (Watch out for those long lovely tub soaks!) Conversely, when nails are subject to harsh detergents and polish removers, they can become brittle. And constant swelling and shrinking of the keratin can weaken the bonds which hold the living part of the nail together.
What affects nail growth? Nails generally take six months to fully grow out. They grow faster in childhood (but stop during childhood diseases), and slow down at about age twenty-five. Nails grow fastest in hot weather, with the body's increased metabolism, and slowest in winter, when they also become more brittle. They speed along during pregnancy, but slow down during periods of serious illness, nervous shock and even viral infections. The thumbnail grows the slowest, while the nail of the middle finger seems to grow the fastest, as do all the nails on the hand you use the most. Nails thicken with age, but activities like typing, buffing, piano playing and nail biting (!) make them grow faster. Contrary to popular opinion, nails do not continue to grow after death. It just looks that way because the surrounding skin tissue shrinks.
- White spots and ridges: These can be caused by a blow or too much pressure at the base of the nail. They will eventually grow out, as they don't involve damage to the nail bed.
- Little white flecks: These little markings on the nail can be caused by a trauma, small or large. They will grow out in six months.
- Yellowing can be the result of chemicals and dyes in household gardening products, leaks from colored nail enamel (especially with failure to use a base coat), and prolonged use of antibiotics.
- Excessive breaking and peeling: Check for possible excessive exposure to detergents, metal cleansers and other household products. Also beware of the possibility of damage from damp inner surface of rubber gloves. (These gloves should always be dry, and should be removed frequently.) Use a nurturing oil on the nails and cuticles.
- Hangnails: These start with splits in or near the cuticle. Hangnails are actually ragged flaps of dead skin. Not only are they uncomfortable, but they can become infected. Don't pull them off. Cut them with a sharp, clean nipper and use cuticle serum or cream to keep the skin soft.
- Accidents: A sudden blow from a hammer, or a finger being caught in a door can cause the area of the nail to bleed and a black spot of coagulated blood may appear. Apply something cold quickly and elevate the hand to prevent an unnecessary accumulation of blood. The spot will grow out if the damage was not done at the base (matrix, or growing portion) of the nail. A more serious injury can cause the nail to loosen or even shed. The best Rx is to see a doctor, who may have to drill a hole through the nail plate to let the blood drain. This hole is not permanent, however, and will grow out with the nail.
- Acrylic nails and bonding gels: These can cause fungus infections, acute dermatitus, and damage to the nail bed.
- Separation of the nail from the bed: Technically called "onycholysis," this separation can be caused by psoriasis, iron deficiency, thyroid disease or injury. More often, however, it is caused by allergies or fungus infection. Dermatologists are finding more of these conditions with the increased popularity of acrylic powders used in some nail salons and sold in some "nail-extension" kits, as well as nail bonding gels which require a "curing" under a lamp. Unfortunately, a "Saran Wrap" effect can occur, resulting in a softened damaged nail. Doctors may prescribe topical and internal medications to alleviate the conditions.
Nails and diet
Should you take gelatin to add inches to your nails? No, unless you are interested in adding pounds of flesh to your hips. Doctors simply advocate a "healthy, well-balanced" diet for healthy nails. However, certain deficiencies may lead to the following conditions:
- Dry, brittle nails: Vitamin A and calcium deficiencies.
- Fragile nails with horizontal and vertical ridges: Vitamin B deficiency.
- Opaque white bands: Possible shortage of protein, Vitamin A, calcium or iron.
- Cracking or splitting: Riboflavin, Vitamin B2 deficiency.
- Concave nail: Iron deficiency.
- White spots: May indicate lack of zinc (but more likely a blow or small trauma).
- Dry, hardened cuticle: May result from the use of antibiotics.
- Also, watch out for fad diets, as they can damage your nails along with the rest of you.
Treatments for nails
If you have soft thin nails (your nails bend easily) or your nails are brittle (your nails break easily), try
Linda Rose's Intensive Nail Treatments. These contain liquid collagen which supplements and strengthens your nails.
by Linda Rose.
Q. My nails split and break easily. What can I do?
A. Protect your hands from water. Water weakens your nails by softening them and causing them to expand and contract. Wear rubber gloves when washing the dishes.
-- Linda Rose in