I always believed I wasn’t genetically blessed to have healthy nails, but I was wrong. Now I know it has little to do with genetics but unhealthy nail habits and nutrition.
I have been neglecting my nails for many years by always covering them with gels and chemical nail polishes to appear well looked after. Finally, in August 2019, after I took off a thick layer of gel polish, my nails looked so damaged and weak that I decided to give them a well-deserved break and stop all the unhealthy manipulations of their appearance. As a result, the transformation was amazing! And it only took about three months for my nails to grow strong and healthy.
Down below, I am going to share with you what I did to grow my nails long naturally. Since I am writing this during the quarantine, and most of you are stuck safely at home, I thought it could be an excellent time for you to give extra love to your nails and transform them into the nails of your dreams without any outside help.
First things first….
Stop wearing acrylics and gels
If you are going on a “healthy nails ” journey, you must stop wearing toxic gel polishes and extensions. As much as it is advertised to us by the salons that gels are not damaging to our nails, you need to realise that it is not entirely true.
For the gels to stay put well on your nail beds, the nail technician must prep them, which often means the nail’s excessive filing that can lead to damages and future abnormalities. Also, some nail technicians do not always follow thorough instructions and safety protocols when applying several layers of acrylics or gel polishes, which may lead to your nails suffocating underneath.
And don’t forget that you need to soak your nail beds in acetone to remove the layers, dehydrating your nails and making them more sensitive and prone to breakage.
I avoided nail polishes for at least three months to give my nails time to breathe and recover. I have also researched what brands are the least toxic to use to pamper my nails in the future for socialising events. When my nails are long and healthy, I am not looking for ways to cover them up all the time because I am finally proud of how they look. So be patient and give your body some time to do the work.
While on this journey, I discovered the brand of nail polishes, “Nailberry,” which is vegan, cruelty and toxic-free. It’s breathable, lasts a long time and has various colours. You can research and find out which salons work with this brand so you can use it too. It’s not an ad, just an honest review of a happy customer!
Stop obsessively manicure your nails
Did you know that you don’t need to cut out your cuticles neatly every week? Unfortunately, women’s magazines continually brainwash us about how we need to keep up with our manicure appointments. In reality, most of us can maintain healthy nails at home.
To keep your cuticles tidy and healthy, you must use a little olive oil and a cuticle pusher to push them back gently. You can use professional services to trim your cuticles if you feel like they are overgrowing the nail area, but always be very careful with this process, as cuticles are put there for a reason to protect your nails from infections and fungus. That is why the professionalism of a nail technician is highly essential.
Another factor you should be paying attention to is how you file your nails. Whether you or your nail technician, you should always file your nails in ONE DIRECTION ONLY! When I see nail technicians chaotically filing nails back and forward, it makes me cringe! It’s damaging and eventually causes nail peeling. Instead, use a side-to-centre motion, sweep the file over the nail’s tip in one direction and then shape your nails as desired. This was one of the first rules I learnt in beauty school, so your trustful nail technician must know this too!
TIP: I have noticed that my nails were more durable if I had them in an oval shape. The oval shape is known to be one of the strongest shapes and looks very elegant, so you might want to consider it.
Here I want to mention the essential vitamins and nutrients you need to adopt into your diet through food or supplements for healthy nail growth.
Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H, promotes nails’ growth and strength. You can consume it either through food or supplements. For example, for about eight months, I took one pill daily of 10,000 mcg of Biotin. As a result, my nails became visibly firmer and grew out very fast.
You can try to rely only on the food you eat to consume enough of this vitamin, but since I wanted to speed up my nails’ healing process, I took it in a supplement form. The best biotin plant food sources are peanuts, avocados, sweet potatoes, onions, cauliflower and tomatoes.
B Vitamins are vital for healthy skin and nails. If you eat animal products, you could rely entirely on your diet to intake B vitamins. However, you could be at risk of deficiency if you are elderly, taking drugs that cause malabsorption or following a strict vegan diet. In these cases, you could take a B-Complex that usually includes Vitamins B3, B5, B6, B2, B1, B9 and B12.
For healthy, strong nails, you must ensure you get enough Vitamin B12 and B9 (folate.) They both contribute to the development of red blood cells, healthy nail growth, and the absorption of other vitamins and minerals.
Possible signs of low B12 levels include if your fingernails develop ridges or lose their moons, so pay attention to that. I can’t remember my nails having lunula at all during my lifetime. However, in the last few years, I have learnt more about B12 deficiency and how it can affect our health, so I have started supplementing B12 to get my moons back.
If you are eating plant-based, I strongly recommend you look into it and find out what B12 supplement is best for you. Low levels of B12 cause your folate levels to drop too. Make sure to include foods high in folates like edamame, lentils, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, avocados, mangos, lettuce and oranges in your daily diet.
Zinc is another critical mineral for healthy nails and overall complexion. You can take zinc as a part of the multivitamin pill or try it in a liquid form (zinc sulphate). Naturally, the human body doesn’t store zinc. That’s why you should also consider increasing your intake of legumes, seeds and nuts to ensure you get enough from your daily diet.
Another reason your nails could develop vertical ridges is a lack of Magnesium in your diet. Make sure to eat enough dark green leafy vegetables, quinoa, nuts, beans and dark chocolate! I am a big fan of raw cacao powder, which is a good source of Magnesium. You can create healthy chocolate treats using this ingredient to satisfy your cravings and your nutritional needs.
Overall, to make sure you have a balanced diet full of essential vitamins and minerals for healthy nails, include these foods into your diet as much as possible: hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, wild blueberries, avocados, bananas, lentils and chickpeas.
Silica supplements are pretty popular in nail care, but you can get a good amount of that beauty mineral from foods. Silica contains orthosilicic acid, which is beneficial for nail growth, especially in brittle nails. Foods like cucumbers, green beans, leafy greens, brown rice and lentils have high silica levels, so make sure to add these foods to your daily diet.
So you might ask, what can I do at home to protect and strengthen my nails?
Apply strengthening treatments
There are a good variety of serums and creams on the market that you can use at home. It can be a moisturising cuticle cream, keratin or protective polish treatment. Just choose what suits your budget!
Adop new home remedies
One more thing you can do to nourish and hydrate your nails at home is to use oils. Coconut and olive oils are known for providing moisturising properties and can help to soften cuticles. Warm it up for 20 seconds and massage it into your nails and cuticles before bed or before you perform a manicure. Coconut oil is also anti-fungal, an excellent choice if you are prone to nail infections.
If your nails grow long but snap easily, try jojoba oil. It can help make your nails more flexible, so your nails instead bend than snap in some cases.
Wear gloves when doing chores
That’s what my mama always told me – wear gloves whenever you do the dishes or cleaning the house. Chemicals and excessive exposure to the tap water are damaging for your skin and your nails. Wear latex gloves with a protective lining when doing house chores to keep your nails safe.
These are my nails a year after I stopped doing any manipulations with them. I am only taking Vitamin B12, and I rely entirely on my daily diet for the rest of the nutrition. As a result, my nails are super strong and grow like weeds! They love life free of toxic gel polishes and acetone.