Good haircare and good nail care go hand in hand.
Wondering how to make sure the condition of your nails isn't negatively impacting the condition of your hair? Try these steps.
If your nails are in good nick, then it's often a sign that your hair is flourishing, too. Not only do hair and nails have many of the same needs – both are made out of the same protein, keratin – but nails in poor condition can often wreak havoc on your hair during styling and washing.
When your nails are weak, prone to splitting, tearing and cracking, they quickly put your hair into the danger zone, ripping away at your strands every time you cleanse and style. Weak nails are also often a sign of poor nutrition. Given their similar makeup, nails that aren't sound are often a hallmark of hair and skin that aren't getting what they require, either. Your diet is the best place to fill your nutritional needs, by including a range of different food sources, but supplementation can help, too, particularly where nail weakness is severe. Look for supplements specially designed for nails, or containing nail-friendly nutrients. Check the label for these:
Vitamin B (especially B-12 and Folic Acid)
Vitamin H (aka Biotin)
Essential fatty acids – especially Omega-6
Weak nails could also be a symptom of something serious – psoriasis, hyperthyroidism, and anaemia are all underlying conditions that could be at the root of your nail issues. If you've made sure your diet is on point, and you're not doing any of the damage listed below, then it's worth asking your doctor about your symptoms.
File them the right way
Splitting nails will tear strands asunder in a second. Many women are increasingly relying on fingerstyling, wary of the damage often wrought by combs and brushes, but unaware that their not-so-smooth nail tips are capable of similar harm. If your diet and overall health are not the problem, then you could be causing your own nails to split by filing them incorrectly. A common mistake is to file nails by sawing back and forth, which strains their natural structure, resulting in splits. To avoid these, file either side of the nail in one direction – towards the centre of your nail, working one side at a time. And forego the old metal files, these also weaken your nails. Look for the finest grain emery board you can get your hands on. Think of it this way: polishing wood with the finest grain sandpaper will give it the smoothest, most buffed finish – the same is true for your nails.
Cleanse them gently
Just as you wouldn't use harsh cleansers on your tresses, try not to expose your nails to abrasive nail varnish removers which strip the nails of both their natural oils and moisture content, as well as dehydrating the surrounding skin and making a menace of your cuticles. If a nail varnish remover leaves your nails feeling chalky and looking dull, then experiment with other brands. Ditto for low quality nail varnishes which often stain the nail and leave it prone to dryness and cracking. Also, make sure the handwash or soap in your bathroom is the gentlest possible and always rinse thoroughly; not only is this key for hygiene purposes, but it also ensures surfactants do not remain on your skin and nails, drying them out.
Pamper your nails
Remember, your hands love a good treatment just like your hair does! Since both your nails and the top layer of your skin are made out of the same stuff as your hair, a lot of what your hair loves, they will love, too. Treat your hands to luxurious oil treatments and stick to the most conditioning hand cream. Your fingers will reward you by running through your hair like they were coated with silk.
Never cut your cuticles
Not only can this practice lead to infection and hangnails, but the skin can sometimes heal in a way which grabs at your strands causing breakage during washing and styling. Keeping your hands well-moisturized and giving the harsh nail varnish removers a miss should be enough to keep your cuticles in order. If you still feel you must do something about them, then push them back gently with a wooden stick or pumice cuticle pusher – no metal!
Do cut your hangnails
As well as being unsightly and characteristic of skin in desperate need of moisture, hangnails love to get all wrapped up in the odd curl as you wash your hair, risking breakage just as your hair is at its most fragile. It's best to cut them off right at the source, and an old-school metal cuticle cutter is perfect for this purpose. Don't let them hang around, or they will only get bigger and more of a threat to your hair.
Try not to scratch your scalp
When washing your hair, it might be tempting to dig your nails in to get it extra clean. However, the scalp is extremely delicate, meaning you risk leaving microcuts in your skin when you opt for this over-enthusiastic cleansing approach. Harsh scratching can also scrape away at newly-emerging hairs, giving them a less than auspicious entrance to the world and hurting their chances of reaching longer lengths. Instead, wash your scalp with the pads of your fingers, exerting a comfortable amount of pressure and vigour, making use of the time to do some growth-enhancing massage steps. If you've been washing your scalp with your fingernails for ages, it might take a little practice to get used to this method – a good trick is to picture using your nails as akin to standing on your tiptoes, whereas using your the pads of your fingers is like standing with your feet on the ground. For healthy hair, it's best to stay firmly on the ground.
Last of all, don't bite!
This is one of the hardest habits to break, but nothing can snag a perfectly good strand – or several of them – like a tooth-torn fingernail. So do your best to keep your fingernails safely away from your teeth.
DHA Hair Care Experts
Dominican Hair Alliance