“I don’t know why you wear those blooming things – you’ve got lovely nails of your own!” lamented my mum. And she was right. I did have strong, healthy nails. Right up until, aged 50, the menopause reared its ugly head and bang, the lower oestrogen levels affected my thyroid function, and I was diagnosed with an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism). Seemingly overnight, I became forgetful, fatigued, irritable, sensitive to cold, and I developed brittle hair and nails, and dry skin. Plus, I had all the usual menopausal symptoms to contend with as well! Oh, the joys.
My once lovely long nails were now brittle, prone to cracking and peeling, and I couldn’t keep any length on them. I purchased cuticle creams, oils, and diamond hard strengthening treatments, but nothing seemed to restore them to their former glory. So, like many women who seem to see this as a rite of passage when they want to flaunt a perfect manicure, I turned to artificial nail enhancements for an instant fix to my problems. A couple of hours in the salon, and I left with a full set of fabulous acrylic fingernails, that made my fingers look long and slender. Perfect!
And so it began. That continuous circle of in-fills, or complete new sets, and the relentless diary scheduling of appointments around social events and holiday periods. Not only was it tedious and time-consuming, but it was also pretty expensive.
Aside from the time and money necessary for maintenance, I became aware of many other downsides. Artificial nails are pretty hard on your natural nails! To get acrylic nails to nails to stick, the surface of your natural nail is filed until rough, which thins the natural nails, making them weaker. Chemicals used in the application process can also irritate the skin around the nails and elsewhere.
Nails are meant to have flexibility. Artificial nails have absolutely no give whatsoever so, if the nail hits a hard object, it can rip the natural nail from the nail bed. If this happens, the resulting gap provides a dark, moist, warm environment where an infection can develop.
Cuticles are also often trimmed during the process. Cuticles are there to protect your nail beds and the surrounding skin from infection so, if you cut or trim them, it’s easier for bacteria to get inside your body and cause an infection. To make things worse, a infection can take an awfully long time to clear.
Acrylic nails create a hard, protective layer over your natural nails. As they grow out with your own nails, you need to return to the salon every few weeks to “fill” in the space.
However, the bad news is these frequent touch-ups can seriously damage your natural nails; leaving them thin, parched and brittle. To remove artificial nails, you need to soak them in a harsh substance called acetone or file them off. Acetone is a solvent that, along with the false nail, it strips away the natural oils, again causing your natural nails to become brittle and dry. Many people find it can also irritate the skin around the cuticles.
So, in effect, by wearing by my beautiful artificial nails, I was actually compounding the problem I initially attempted to overcome – making my own thin, dry, and brittle nails even worse. Yet, despite being aware of all the above issues, I’ve proudly worn them for the last nine or ten years!
In all honesty, I’d probably still be wearing them now if it wasn’t for a hospital visit in May of this year, when I underwent a small operation, for which all make-up and artificial nails had to be removed. This is so doctors can see your skin and nails to ensure your blood circulation is healthy, and to reduce unwanted bacteria being bought into hospital. Which is why most hospitals don’t allow employees to wear artificial nails due to the risk of infection to patients – a very sobering thought!
I was determined to be back at the salon post-op; my natural nails were in a terrible state, of which I was so ashamed having grown accustomed to a perfect manicure.
They were so thin that they were incredibly painful! When the hot water of my shower hit my damaged nails, I almost cried. This made me sit back and re-evaluate my situation. Rather than rush back to the beauty salon for a manicure as I’d initially promised myself; I decided to take some time out to give my nails a chance to heal.
I went back to the pharmacy, buying a variety of cuticle oils and nail strengthening and growth treatments, and have even resorted to taking an oral silica supplement to boost healthy nail, skin and hair growth. I’ve also trawled the internet for the best way to strengthen natural nails and prevent nail damage, and some of the best tips I’ve found are as follows:
Nearly six months on after removing my artificial nails, my nails have almost ‘grown out’ the damage caused by the artificial nails. They’re still a little thin, tender and weak, but not nearly as bad as they once were. I can’t get any length on them as they still spilt and peel, but I’m hoping that this will continue to improve given time and daily care. Mum says that I’m lucky as have long nail beds that give the illusion of growth, so perhaps she’s right – Mum really does know best on this occasion!
I still look wistfully at my various friend’s immaculate salon manicures, and admit to a huge degree of nail envy, but I’ve decided not to go there again myself. If you love the look of artificial nails, I’d advocate getting them done for a special occasion only. Give yourself time without artificial nails to allow your natural nails a chance to repair themselves.
Bare Beauty would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Are you for – or totally against – them? Please leave your comments below.