Whether or not you’re the manicure type, you’ll want to seek help when fingernails or toenails turn into eyesores. Here are some ways to get your nail back in shape.
There are people who really care for their nails, while others couldn’t care less. But when nail problems strike, it’s time to seek help. Here are some ways to get your nails back in shape fast with better nutrition, selected supplements, and fungus-fighters.
Recognize your nail problem
Apart from ingrown toenails, nail fungus is probably the most disagreeable nail problem. When you get this affliction—usually on a toenail—the nail turns thick, discolored, and crumbly. Other nail problems include brittle nails, which can be the result of age or too much or too little moisture, or nutritional deficiencies. And certain skin diseases can affect the nails, including psoriasis (it can cause a thickening and pitting of the nails) and the patchy hair loss known as alopecia areata (it can cause ridged, pitted, rough nails).
To fight stubborn nail fungus, try tea-tree oil. A powerful antiseptic, it can help make nail fungus disappear. In fact, in one study it proved to be as effective as a prescription anti-fungal medicine. Once or twice a day, apply a drop or two to the discolored nail. A good time to do it is after you bathe or shower, when your skin is softest.
Alternatively, you can use an anti-fungal powder that absorbs moisture and prevents fungus. Some good ones are Tinacten powder or Dr. Scholl’s powder. You can sprinkle a medicated anti-fungal powder into your socks too.
If your feet are sweaty when you get home, change into a fresh pair of socks right away. And if you have an office job, take along a pair of clean socks—especially on hot summer days—so you can change before you start work.
Don’t clip your cuticles. When you do this, you’re removing your nail’s protective barrier. Fungi and bacteria find it easier to get a grip around the base of the nail after the cuticle is removed.
Take your vitamins
Take 300 micrograms of biotin, a B vitamin, four to six times a day with food. Long ago, veterinarians learned that this vitamin could strengthen horses’ hooves—and the hooves are made primarily from keratin, the same material that makes up human nails.
If your nails are weak or brittle, biotin might be all you need to strengthen and thicken them. But it doesn’t work right away. You’ll need to take this treatment for six months or more before you see a noticeable difference.
Drink a cup of horsetail or nettle tea once a day. These herbs are high in silica and other minerals that nails need to grow.
Beat brittle, flaking nails with your diet
If your nails are brittle or flaking, try getting more essential fatty acids. These are found in foods such as fatty fish or flax-seed oil. If you don’t eat much fish, take 1 tablespoon flax-seed oil a day (use it in place of other oil in salad dressing), or sprinkle ground flax-seeds on your cereal or other food.
Evening primrose oil is another source of essential fatty acid. Take 1,000 milligrams three times a day with meals.
If your nails have white spots, you may be deficient in zinc. Nuts, root vegetables, whole grains, meat, and shellfish are good sources of this mineral.
Moisturize and protect
For dry, brittle nails, rub petroleum jelly or a thick cream into your nails to hold moisture around and under your nails. If you do this at bedtime, slip a pair of thin cotton gloves on your hands before you to sleep.
Wear vinyl gloves every time you wash dishes or do other household tasks that require you to immerse your hands in water. (Vinyl is best, because people with nail problems tend to have skin that is sensitive to rubber.)
Avoid polish removers that contain acetone or formaldehyde. They’re terribly drying to nails. Use acetate-based removers instead.
Say no to fake nails
For women who have problems with weak, soft, brittle nails, artificial nails can seem like a godsend. But if you want to avoid nail fungus, forget the fakes, no matter how much you long for elegant nails.
Artificial nails are glued on top of your real ones, and the gap in-between creates a breeding ground for fungus. Even worse, this is an area where you can develop a painful bacterial infection. Artificial nails are the most common cause of nail fungus in women.
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