5 solutions for strong and healthy nails

Are your nails prone to breakage? Here are five common nail issues and how to fix them

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manicure nail health

Get lovely nails

Not all of us are lucky enough to have knockout nails. Dr. Beatrice Wang, a dermatologist and assistant professor in the faculty of dermatology at McGill University, says nail fragility is often genetic, but external factors can also contribute to cracking, peeling and splitting. Still, a basic home-care regimen can keep yours in decent shape.

“It’s a good idea to keep your nails on the short side,” says Wang. Longer lengths are not only more prone to splitting, they can also harbour bacteria. Besides, they’re not even on trend: Lisa Postma, a Los Angeles-based celebrity manicurist with OPI who has worked with Renée Zellweger and Cate Blanchett, says the nails should extend just slightly past the end of your fingertip. Trim straight across to create a squareish shape and then file-in one direction only-to smooth edges. (Removing too much around the corners can cause breakage and ingrown nails.) Occasional gentle buffing is a good way to make nails look shiny without polish.

Apply cream or lotion often and rub it into your nails and cuticles. If your nails are brittle, take a break from nail polish, since it and polish removers-even acetone-free ones-can make nails drier.

“Nutrition is important for good overall health and may also be important for nail health,” explains Anneke Vink, a registered dietician at Dani Health & Nutrition in Vic­toria. She recommends six to eight glasses of water per day and eating a balanced diet.

Here are five common nail woes, plus tips to get yours in shape:

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manicure nails

1. Ridges on nails

The cause: Vertical ridges are associated with the aging process. See your doctor if you notice horizontal ridges, as they can indicate underlying health problems such as respiratory disease, malnutrition or even heart attack risk. Vink says ridges are also often triggered by a deficiency in B vitamins, a condition common in older people.

The fix:
Buffing, moisturizing and using cosmetic ridge fillers will help nails appear smoother-although they won’t impart permanent changes. While the effect of diet on nail health is not proven, Vink suggests upping your intake of meat, poultry, fish and milk products, which are rich in B vitamins.

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2. Brittle nails

The cause: Genetics

The fix: Keep nails short and use a nail hardener (most contain hydrolyzed proteins, calcium, acetates, resins or small amounts of formaldehyde as hardening ingredients) to protect them from splitting or snagging. Recent research shows daily supplements of 2.5 mg of biotin or 10 mg of silicon may help some people with brittle nails. Biotin can also be found in almonds, yogurt, eggs and tomatoes; silicon is found in bananas and string beans. Vink also suggests following the Canada’s Food Guide recommended dietary allowance of 1,000 mg of calcium daily for women 19 to 50.

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manicure nail health

3. White spots on nails

The cause: Damage to the nail or a zinc deficiency.

The fix: You’ll have to let the spots grow out. In the meantime, to help prevent future spots, follow a healthy diet that includes zinc-rich foods such as almonds, chicken and cereal. While this has not been defin­itely proven to help, it certainly won’t hurt.

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4. Hangnails

The cause: Vink puts them down to a lack of folic acid or vitamins B and C, while Wang blames trauma to the cuticles, such as picking, biting or pushing them back.

The fix: Trim away the hangnail and then leave your cuticles alone. Also try increasing the fruit and vegetable content in your diet.

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nail polish remover

5. Yellowish nails

The cause: Smoking or using nail polish without a base coat are common offenders. If neither applies to you, see a doctor-rarely, yellow nails can indicate liver problems.

The fix: Buffing can help, but Wang says the only way to truly get rid of yellow nails is to wait until the stained areas grow out.

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