After repairing my hair so that it finally looked luscious and healthy again, I started focusing on my nails and how they weren’t quite as healthy as I wanted them to be…
They had a yellow tinge to them, and looked a little brittle. Not what ya want (at least not what I wanted my nails to be like anyway). So I went in search of some natural remedies to help strengthen my nails and bring back their healthy pink colour.
What I found was quite interesting. It is said that almost any nutritional deficiency can affect the growth of our nails in some way. So our fingernails can be a window into our body that tells us the state of our health.
Health issues and nutritional deficiencies can show up as signs on our nails. Scientists can actually tell if someone has high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in their body through reading people’s fingernails. Or even if someone has diabetes! Brittle nails can even be a sign of hypothyroidism, and 50% of people suffering with psoriasis have nail issues that are connected to skin inflammation.
Supplements for Healthy Nails
Protein is necessary for healthy nails as they’re primarily made up of the protein keratin. But our nails need more than just protein…
Have you ever had white marks appear on your nails? It can either be a sign that you knocked them a few weeks back, or it could also mean you have a zinc deficiency. Zinc helps the body absorb protein, which is why it’s so important for nail health.
Some great sources of zinc include:
- Pumpkin seeds (eat them raw as roasting them can deplete zinc levels)
- Dark chocolate
- Sesame seeds
- Wheat germ
Soaking nuts and grains helps with zinc absorption as it reduces the naturally occurring phytates present in these plant foods that can block zinc absorption.
Meat is one of the best sources of bioavailable zinc. Plus it contains protein, iron, and collagen which is important for building strong, healthy nails.
Iron deficiency can cause weak and brittle nails. Boosting your intake of iron-rich foods (pairing it with vitamin C, as it enhances absorption of iron) will help if this is the problem.
Some excellent food sources of iron include:
- Beans and lentils (soak/sprout the to enhance absorption)
- Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables
- Dried fruit like apricots.
- Red meat
- Grass-fed liver
Collagen peptides are a form of protein that contain necessary amino acids that help to strengthen nails. It can be found naturally in bone broth, but some plant-based sources that can help boost collagen production in the body include kiwi fruit, avocados, almonds, berries, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, and garlic.
This water-soluble B vitamin has been shown to strengthen fingernails. Biotin-rich sources include eggs, organ meats, fish, meat, and salmon. Some plant sources include nuts, seeds, and sweet potato.
Silica is an important nutrient in the body, but if you’re receiving enough through your food intake, you may not need to supplement this nutrient. Diatomaceous earth and horsetail leaf are natural sources of silica. Horsetail is best consumed by mixing it in water or vinegar because it is water-soluble.
Soft, flaky nails that are prone to splitting can be a sign of low blood magnesium. Green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach and kale), fruits like figs, avocados, bananas and raspberries, nuts and seeds, legumes (black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans), veggies like peas, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, artichokes, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts, and seafood such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna are great sources of this vital nutrient.
Hydrochloric Acid (HCL)
If your body can’t digest and absorb nutrients properly, no matter how many supplements or nutrient-rich foods you have, you won’t be able to absorb nearly the amount you need. Poor absorption of nutrients because of low HCL stomach acid can impact nail health. Taking apple cider vinegar in water before meals can help encourage the production of digestive juices to aid in better digestion.
Calcium is an important nutrient needed for healthy nails but it needs to be paired with vitamin K2. K2 helps guide calcium to where it needs to go in the body, such as the nails and bones. It can be found in foods like grass-fed butter, natto (fermented soy), goose liver, cheese, egg yolks, and dark chicken meat.
Vitamin A assists the body in processing the protein your body needs to strengthen and build healthy nails. Animal sources of this vitamin (like grass-fed liver) are much more bioavailable for the body compared to beta-carotene from plant foods like carrots and sweet potatoes.
Healthy Nail Care Habits to Adopt
Along with following a healthy diet, here are some habits to adopt. Certain habits of ours dries out the skin on our hands, which in turn can damage nails.
- Washing your hands frequently may help to prevent the spread of pathogens, however it also dries out hands. Moisturising hands after washing can help rehydrate the skin (this homemade lotion works wonders).
- Winter weather can dry out hands due to going from hot to cold all the time. Thus, using cuticle cream (which I’ll share below) can help with this.
- Rather than using an emery nail file, switch to a glass one as it’s gentler on nails.
- Wear gloves while washing up as it stops the chemicals from cleaning liquids getting onto your hands and nails and causing damage. Plus it prevents nails getting soft and tearing too.
- Trim nails after showering when they’re softer, as they’re less likely to break.
- Chlorine from pools, and alcohol sanitisers can dry out hands. So using a homemade hand sanitiser can be a better alternative.
Does Nail Polish Damage Nails?
Nails will absorb whatever is put onto them, so using toxic nail polishes can cause the top layer of the nail to dry out, welcoming the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mould underneath fingernails. Brittle nails can be brought on by too many manicures, harsh nail polish remover, or too much nail polish.
Gel nail polish has been reported to cause more damage than standard nail polish, promoting brittle and thinning nails.
Here are a few tips to protect nails even with polish on them (so you don’t have to go without):
- Avoid artificial nails to allow proper airflow to the nail bed.
- Use a non-toxic nail polish to avoid harmful chemicals.
- Opt for a natural nail polish remover that doesn’t contain acetone.
- For extended periods of time, avoid wearing nail polish to allow the nail to “breathe”.
Home Remedies for Nail Infections
One of the most common causes of yellow nails is from fungal infections. Essential oils like orange, patchouli, geranium, and peppermint essential oil have been found to work well in fighting bacteria and fungi.
Lavender and tea tree both contain strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. However, if nails become worse, consult with your natural health practitioner.
Natural Cuticle Cream
Cuticles are part of the skin that helps to protect the nail bed from infection and damage. It’s ok to push cuticles back, just make sure you’re gentle with them. If you cut them or damage them through harsh treatment, it can lead to infection and damage.
Why Use Natural Cuticle Cream?
Sweet almond oil is the base of the cream. It’s rich in vitamin E, linoleic acid, oleic acid, and helps retain moisture around the area to prevent drying out. As this carrier oil is quite light, it doesn’t leave the hands feeling as greasy after applying the cream.
Jojoba oil is more of a wax than an oil, and mimics the skin’s natural sebum (oil), that protects the skin. Jojoba also draws moisture to the skin and promotes acid mantle production on the skin which protects against harmful bacteria.
Vitamin E oil has been shown to improve nail growth and promotes healthier nail colour.
Citrus essential oils help to soften the cuticle and promote nutrients from other oils to be absorbed by the skin better. They also improve vitamin E absorption.
Helichrysum oil adds to the cream’s soothing effects. It’s able to heal damaged skin much quicker, contains natural antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and adds a lovely scent to the cream.
Nourishing Cuticle Cream Recipe
- 4 1/2 tsp sweet almond oil
- 1/2 tsp jojoba oil
- 1 tsp beeswax (or non-GMO soy wax for vegan option)
- 5 drops vitamin E oil
- 3 drops helichrysum essential oil (can replace with lavender essential oil)
- 5 drops lemon essential oil
- 3 drops sweet orange essential oil (leave out if using lavender)
- Fill a pot halfway with water, and perch the glass bowl on top to make a double boiler.
- In a glass bowl combine the sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, and beeswax (or soy wax). Heat and stir occasionally until the wax has completely melted.
- Remove bowl from heat and carefully dry the outside of the bowl with a clean towel. This prevents any water from getting into the cuticle cream as you’re pouring it.
- Stir in the vitamin E oil and essential oils. Immediately pour the mixture into the container and allow to cool at room temperature until firm.
How to Use:
- You only need a little, so a pea-size drop will do to cover both hands. Apply it over polish or onto bare nails, but don’t polish nails right after cuticle cream has been applied as the oils will keep the polish from sticking properly.
- Massage a small amount of the cuticle cream into the nails, cuticles, and skin surrounding the nail.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products.
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Do you have healthy, strong nails? What are some of your natural tips that keep them strong? Share with me below! I love hearing your amazing ideas 😊
Wells, Katie. (January 23, 2019). Natural Nail Care 101: Tips for Healthy Nails. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/385581/healthy-nails/
Group, Edward, Dr., DC. (September 18, 2015). 8 Foods High in Zinc – What Are Their Benefits?. Global Healing Center. Retrieved from https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/foods-high-in-zinc/
Kaufman, Caroline, MS, RDN. (January 5, 2018). Foods to Fight Iron Deficiency. Eat Right. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/iron-deficiency
Fodstad, Mitch. (January 3, 2018). 10 Foods That Increase Collagen Production. Mauer. Retrieved from https://medium.com/mauer-sports-nutrition/10-foods-that-increase-collagen-production-532255796ff4
Kresser, Chris. (March 22, 2017). Vitamin K2: Are You Consuming Enough?. Kresser Institute. Retrieved from https://kresserinstitute.com/vitamin-k2-consuming-enough/
Steen, Juliette. (12/07/2017). What Foods Contain Magnesium?. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/07/10/what-foods-contain-magnesium_a_23024245/
Herndon, Jaime, MS, MPH, MFA. (May 24, 2018). 15 Tips for Stronger Nails. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-strengthen-nails#1
Wells, Katie. (February 18, 2019). How to Make a Nourishing Natural Cuticle Cream at Home. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/267132/cuticle-cream/