File under: Nail options

Posted on March 8th, 2010 by Michelle

Back in the day before there were wraps, acrylics, supplements and a nail shop on every corner, if you wanted longer, stronger fingernails you drank the proverbial Kool-Aid – in this case, a little unflavored gelatin once or twice a week.  It worked so well for one friend, her toenails got too thick to clip. Not a good look for flip-flops. It worked so well for Knox, it put its unflavored gelatin in capsules and markets it specifically for nails.

These days, the choices are much more complex. There are brush-on nail growth stimulators and thickeners and strengtheners, although we wonder if they don’t all really do the same thing and just come in different packaging.

First, a note about WHY your nails might need strengthening.  If your nails are seriously peeled and cracked, or if you see any sign of discoloration  – go to the doctor.  It might be poor circulation, an infection or a vitamin deficiency.  Most of us see dry, brittle nails when they need simple moisturizing, however.  Rub lotion and cuticle oils into your exposed nails a couple times a week if you are not using polish.

Some of us, unfortunately, just have thin nails.  And choosing product isn’t easy.  Nail product guru Sally Hansen alone offers 25 different products just for strengthening and growth that claim to end chipping, peeling and cracking. Hallelujah.

Most of these products are little prophylactic shields that you paint on to defend the nail from the elements that are vying to make it chip, crack or peel. Many contain formaldehyde, which, according to Paula Begoun, the Cosmetics Cop, toughens nails. She also says that as a preservative, it hasn’t been proven to be a health risk.

Sally Hansen seems to rein supreme among the mass market products, but that might be because the company has so many of them.  Also top of the list on and among well-nailed friends is Nailtiques Formula 2 for Thin, Brittle Nails.  Nailtiques used to be a salon-only brand, but moved into the mass market a few years ago.  Decleor Aromessence Ongles – Strengthening Concentrate for Nails is popular, but expensive.

Newer products are being touted as formaldehyde-free.  Brush-on products from QTICA and Barielle both contain garlic extract to stimulate growth. As the propaganda, er, marketing materials for QTICA Natural Nail Growth Stimulator puts it, you “trick your nails into growing faster,” because the garlic extract tricks the “nail matrix” into producing new protein that shoves out the old protein that creates the keratin that is really the nail. Whew.

What is puzzling, though, is why this stuff can’t just be added to the polish. If you can add sunscreen to makeup and bronzer to lotion, why can’t you add garlic extract to that Ruby Red enamel?

Better yet, let’s add the garlic extract to the Knox, throw in a little vodka and make Jell-o shots. We’ll have stronger, longer nails in no time. We just won’t remember how we got ‘em.

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