How to transform weak nails into fabulous talons!

If my husband could have a penny for every time he heard the words ” I BROKE A NAIL” in the last eleven years, he’d be a rich man. I do a lot of things that are hard on my nails. I garden, clean, paint, camp, ride a bike, make things, break things…You get the idea…

We all want long, beautiful nails but it does take a bit of work! You have to take care of them and pamper them quite often. Hand and nail models and religious about manicures and the products they use. If you want model hands, you will have to work for them.

There are several factors that influence the health of your nails. Your diet, age, work, nutrition, some medical conditions, your lifestyle and even the weather.

Our nails are made up of a fibrous protein called keratin. It is effectively “dead” protein fibres so they need to be moisturised and protected manually. Internally you want to keep the nail bed and the cuticles as healthy as possible to provide protection and support for your nails.

fragile nails hands

Why do nails become fragile?

As we get older we don’t produce collagen and elastin the way we used to so our hair, skin and nails become a little drier, more brittle and less flexible over the years. You might find that your nails simply snap at the slightest pressure where you used to be able to use a fingernail as a screwdriver if you chose to do so…(don’t!)

FIX IT: Keep your hands and nails moisturised with oils or lotions. Rub excess moisturiser from your skincare into your hands before bed and make sure that you show your hands and nails some love at least once a week by soaking your nails in oil and massaging them to improve blood circulation to the nail bed.
fragile nails massage

Our hands and nails take a lot of abuse. You do almost everything with your hands. Cleaning products and detergents in hot water are a serious culprit. When we put our hands in hot water the keratin fibres making up our nails soften and “open” a little. This not only leeches any moisture our of them but it also lets the harsh chemicals in detergents in. Dishwashing liquid is designed to strip oil and grease away and it does it to your nails AND the dishes.

Washing your hands frequently and over-use of hand sanitizer will also dry out your nails and make them brittle.

FIX: Wear gloves when you do the dishes or clean with chemicals. Keep hand lotion in the kitchen and moisturise your hands and nails every time you wash your hands or put them in water.

Don’t use your nails as tools or chew on them to remove a rough bit. Keep an emery board handy in your handbag to fix any breakages.

Weather and Climate
Cold or dry climates, as well as heating and air conditioning, will dry out skin, hair and nails. You will need a rich hand lotion or oil to stop hands and nails from drying out.

Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions like anaemia, hypothyroidism, eczema, psoriasis, fungal infections or iron deficiency. If you do have brittle nails it could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Check with your doctor.

Your manicure habits
Acetone is used to dissolve acrylic nails and plastics. Used to remove polish, acetone will over-dry the nails and make them brittle.

Picking and peeling nail polish off your nails will strip the moisture and protective layer off leaving your nails vulnerable.

Nails need to be left bare from time to time to allow them to “breathe” and grow.

Biting your nails exposes your nails and cuticles to saliva. Your saliva starts the digestion process in your mouth, so if it can digest food it can damage your nails. Biting also damages the nail bed which can later cause deformation of the nails or splitting.

Sawing” your nails with rough nail files will split and damage the nails. Only file in one direction and don’t buff thin nails.

Wearing artificial nails for extended periods of time will also cause damage. The nail needs to breathe and if you trap bacteria under the artificial nail you can end up with a problem. Picking off artificial nails will definitely damage the nail but so will removing them with acetone. Give your nails a week or two before applying new nails.

Poor Diet

A diet deficient in vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium and protein will show in your nails. You could develop raised ridges and white spots. If you are severely deficient your nails can change shape and split vertically.

FIX: A varied diet full of the following nutrients:

  • Protein from fish, lean meats, quinoa, buckwheat, soy, legumes, pulses beans etc.
    Why? Nails are made up of protein so the body uses the protein we eat to repair and build our tissues.
  • Essential fats Omega 3 and 6 from oily fish like sardines, tuna and salmon or non-animal sources like flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts etc.
    Why? If we are deficient in healthy fats our hair, skin and nails will become dry and brittle.
  • Iron from red meat and eggs as well as legumes, whole grains, spinach, tomato and strawberries
    Why? The body uses Iron to produce haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. Iron deficiency can cause cracking, vertical stripes and in severe cases even spoon-shaped nails.
  • B vitamins from whole grains, oats, almonds, eggs, spinach, sweet potato, cheese, cauliflower or mushrooms.
    Why? B vitamins repair and rebuild hair skin and nails. Biotin is a specific B vitamin that strengthens brittle nails by thickening the nail plate to prevent damage.
  • Vitamin E from eggs, fish, green vegetables, nuts, seeds, spinach, avocado, bell peppers, wheat germ, cereals, vegetable oil etc.
    Why? Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects and repairs skin, hair and nails. It is known as the skin vitamin.
  • Vitamin C from berries, red peppers, oranges, guava, papaya, parsley, grapefruit, kiwi, mango etc.
    Why? Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to prevent and repair damage caused by free radicals. It helps to keep the cuticles and nail bed strong and healthy.
  • Beta-carotene or Vitamin A from carrots, pumpkin, papaya, mango, liver, oily fish, egg yolks etc
    Why? The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A which helps to strengthen the nails.
  • Sulphur found in protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat, fish, cheese and nuts.
    Why? Sulphur helps to regulate the body’s PH. It is also essential for the production of collagen in the body which keeps hair, skin and nails elastic and flexible.

Recipes for nail treatments

  1. Warm Olive Oil Soak

    1/2 cup olive oil – moisturises and nourishes
    1 tablespoon lemon juice – removes stains
    Large bowl with hot water
    Mix the olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl that will fit the fingertips from both hands. Place the small bowl in a larger one and pour hot water into the large bowl until it reaches about halfway up the smaller one. Leave the oil to warm for a minute or two. Put your fingertips in the oil and soak your nails for 5 to 10 minutes.
    Remove your hands from the oil and massage your hands and nails until the oil absorbs.
  2. Sea Salt Soak
    fragile nails sea salt

    2 tablespoons sea salt – brightens and protects
    1 teaspoon castor oil – nourishes and strengthens
    2 cups hot water
    Mix the ingredients together in a bowl until the salt is dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool until it is comfortable for you to soak your nails in it. You don’t want it too hot, just comfortably warm. Soak your nails for 5 minutes, dry off and use olive oil or a rich lotion to massage your hands and nails.
  3. Garlic Nail Strengthener
    fragile nails garlic
    Contents of 2 vitamin E capsules – strengthens and nourishes
    1 garlic clove – contains selenium that helps nails grow
    2 tablespoons jojoba or olive oil – jojoba strengthens and olive oil moisturises
    5 drops lavender essential oil – strengthens brittle nails
    Small dropper bottle
    Put the jojoba oil and contents of Vitamin E capsules into the glass bottle. Mash the garlic clove until really fine and add that as well. Let it stand for a few hours before using. To use, put a drop on each nail and massage in. Do not rinse. Use daily.
  4. Apple Cider Vinegar Soak For Nail Infections or Fungus
    fragile nails vinegar

    1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar – Kills infection
    1/2 cup warm water
    Place apple cider vinegar and water in a bowl. Soak your fingertips in the mixture for 10 minutes. Use the nail strengthener above to moisturise your hands and nails after soaking.
  5. Horsetail/Dill Soak
    2 tablespoons dried horsetail or dill – contains silica that aids in nail growth
    2 cups hot water
    Steep the mixture for 5 minutes. Soak your nails in the mixture for 10 minutes. Don’t rinse off, just moisturise your hands and nails.
  6. Frankincense Nourishing Oil
    evening primrose oil dropper

    150ml Olive Oil – nourishes and moisturises
    1 Vitamin E Capsule (contents) – repairs damage
    10 drops frankincense essential oil – strengthens weak nails
    Small dropper bottle
    Combine the oils in a dropper bottle. Use on thin, brittle nails once a day.
  7. Coconut and Myrrh Massage Balm
    fragile nails balm

    2 tablespoons coconut oil – fights fungal infections and moisturises nails and cuticles
    1 tablespoon honey – moisturises and treats infection
    6 drops Myrrh Essential Oil – nourishing for nails and cuticles
    Small tin or container with a lid
    Warm the coconut oil and add the honey. Mix together then add the rosemary essential oil. Put the mixture in the tin or container. Let it cool and solidify. Carry it with you and rub a little on your nails and cuticles whenever they feel dry.
  8. Stinging Nettle Drink
    3 teaspoons dried stinging nettle leaves – full of  iron, silica, calcium, Vit A, D & K
    1 cup of hot water
    A little honey  to sweeten
    Put the stinging nettle in a cup and pour the hot water on top. Leave to steep for 5 minutes and strain into another cup. Add a little honey to sweeten. Drink daily
  9. Honey Hand Lotion
    fragile nails lotion

    1 teaspoon clear honey – fights infection and nourishes the nail
    2 tablespoons almond oil – moisturises and is full of Vit A, E and B
    4 tablespoons rose water – brightens and moisturises
    1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar – fights infection
    Warm the honey very gently and whisk in the almond oil. Warm the rosewater and vinegar together and pour into the warm honey and almond oil mixture. Stir together until it cools and thickens slightly. Pour it into a clean bottle with a lid or stopper and use whenever your hands feel dry.
  10. Argan Oil & Tea Tree Massage Oil For Infected Nails and Cuticles
    1 teaspoon Argan Oil – kills fungal infection and moisturises
    2 drops Tea Tree Oil – kills infections
    Mix together in a small bowl and massage your nails and cuticles to treat nail or cuticle infections.

Quick Fixes

Sometimes we don’t have access to cuticle creams or nail polish but our nails look dry and miserable or our cuticles are ragged. This usually happens to me on weekends away when we’ve been biking.

  1. Lip Balm
    Lip balms usually contain oil, vaseline or beeswax that moisturise and smooth your lips. Use your lip balm as a massage oil  to smooth out cuticles and moisturise your dull nails
  2. Leave-in Conditioner
    Most leave in conditioners contain keratin and oils to smooth hair and prevent frizz due to dryness. When you put your leave-in conditioner through your hair, rub a little on your nails and cuticles as well.
  3. Smoothing Hair Oils
    Most of these oils contain Moroccan argan oil or nut oils to smooth and moisturise. Simply rub the excess into your nails and cuticles after applying it to your hair.

Weak nails are a pain. I use a mixture of olive oil, lemon and vitamin E daily or every time I’ve had my hands in water. I also keep my nails very short when they are weak. It gives the weakened area time to grow out without added breakage. Longer nails are more fragile I keep them rounded and short until I can see that they are improving. I only leave them to grow out when I can tell that they are thicker and stronger.

Let me know which treatments you try and if they help!

Happy manicuring!



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