Flaky Nails: Why We Get Them And How To Deal With Them
The Debrief: Flaky nails, nailed
Flaky nails are one of those irritating things that happen, but you’re never quite sure why. Well, that’s not strictly true. It’s usually obvious you could be doing more to look after them, but apparently you’re meant to do kegels pretty much constantly, and who’s doing that? Exactly.
Anyway, whether it’s deciding you’re, like, way too tired to go to your mate’s birthday or just your nails, flaking is never good, so here’s the low-down on flaky nails. (I can’t help you with your friend-focused laziness, I’m afraid.)
What are flaky nails?
There’s actually a proper name for flaky nails: onychoschizia. This is used to describe nails that are thin or brittle, or when the ends split or flake apart. I’ll be focusing more on the ‘splitting’ part but, really, it’s all part and parcel of the same thing.
Why do we get flaky nails?
Dryness is one of the main causes. ‘It’s usually when your nail beds are really dry. For example, if you haven’t been applying a base coat,’ Lucy Tucker, nail technician and Perfect7 expert, explained. Typically, flaky nails get worse in the winter because of the harsher climate and lack of moisture.
On top of that, it can be a reaction to long-term exposure to water or chemicals. ‘This includes frequent swimming, dishwashing, use of detergents and nail polish,’ nutrition scientist Dr Stacey Lockyer, explained. On top of that constant wetting and drying of the nail (like when you wash your hands) is likely to increase brittleness.
Internal factors are a potential cause as well, like vitamin deficiences. Emma Myers, founder of BruzZ Nail Brush, expanded on this: ‘It can also be a sign of certain medical conditions such as anaemia, thyroid disorders and skin disorders such as psoriasis.’ If you suspect it could be caused by this, be sure to consult your GP.
How should you deal with flaky nails?
It’s so tempting, but don’t pick them! ‘This will make them so much worse! You’re picking layers off which can cause long-term damage. Instead, if the nail splits, gently file the nail with a very soft block buffer,’ Lucy recomends. Something like the Boots 4 Way Buffer Block, £2, is a good choice. This will stop the nail from splitting any further and damaging the rest of the nail.
How do you stop it?
Simply, you need to look after your hands and nails! Using a base coat is a great place to start because it’ll protect the nail when you wear nail polish, which can be really drying. OPI’s new Nail Envy ‘Strength In Color’ in Pink To Envy, £19.50, is ideal for this; it’s their cult Nail Envy formula – which includes wheat protein and calcium to strengthen nails – but with a soft tint, so you can forgo another nail colour entirely if you can’t be bothered.
Cuticle oil will also help keep the nails hydrated. The Elegant Touch Nail Apothecary Cuticle Elixir, £7.95, contains almond and Vitamin E to keep them moisturised. To top it all off, get a good hand-cream in your life like The Body Shop’s Hemp Hand Protector, £5, which is formulayed especially for really dry hands.
And diet? ‘A healthy balanced diet can contribute to healthy nails, as well as skin and hair. Zinc and selenium are particularly important for nails and it’s possible to get enough from our diets,’ Dr Lockyer told me. ‘Good sources of zinc are meat, poultry, shellfish, nuts and wholegrains, while selenium can be found in Brazil nuts, fish, eggs and mushrooms.’
If you feel like you do need a helping hand (pun intended) try Holland & Barrett Selenium Plus Zinc Tablets, £8.99 for 90.
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Artwork by Laura Heckford
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