One of the two most common complaints in my practice is hair breakage and brittle nails. I always recommend biotin because this super vitamin really helps to grow strong hair and nails.
There is quite a lot of research to support the use of biotin for hair breakage. Biotin is a B vitamin that is necessary for cell growth. Biotin deficiency leads to hair loss and biotin has even been used in children with genetically brittle hair to improve strength and manageability.
It is important to understand that biotin will not actually stimulate new hair growth. Biotin does, however, prevent breakage and therefore improves overall hair health and thickness. You need at least 3000 micrograms of biotin daily to get the best results AND it can take up to six months to see improvement. This is because hair grows an average of one centimeter per month so you need to be patient.
The good news is that, for nails, the results are much quicker and my patients always comment on nail improvement first. So for thicker hair and stronger nails, consider taking a biotin supplement daily.
Dry, brittle nails are a common problem in women. Sometimes trauma to the nails can lead to dryness, splitting and other nail changes. However, for many women, these nail problems appear spontaneously and there is no obvious cause. If you have dry, brittle nails, there are a few things you can do to help. Biotin is a vitamin for the hair and nails, and this works well to strengthen the nails. It can take several months to notice a change so it is important to be patient. I usually recommend at least 3000 micrograms daily to get the best results.
The nail matrix is the white area at the bottom of the nail bed next to the cuticle. This is where your nails are made. For this reason, it is important to avoid any trauma to the cuticle, because any trauma in this area can affect the matrix and cause splitting, peeling and other nail changes. Avoid extensive clipping and cutting of the cuticle during manicures, which can cause trauma to the cuticle. Application of Vaseline to the cuticle area daily can hydrate the cuticle and improve overall nail health. It is important to note that some medical conditions, like psoriasis and eczema, can also cause nail changes. These can be treated with topical steroid creams. It is best to see a dermatologist if you think you may have one of these conditions to get the best results.
I have recently learned about a new gel based manicure called Shellac. Shellac uses a new technology that goes on like a polish but wears like a gel, resulting in high gloss and chip free nails for 2 weeks!!! This would be a dream come true because one of the main reasons I don’t get manicures is because I take gloves on and off all day and a manicure typically lasts 1-2 days tops with that kind of wear and tear. The great news is that the Shellac manicure really does last 2 weeks (and probably even longer). This is very exciting news for those of us whose nails always chip. But the real question is “are these products safe?”.
Gel based manicures and Shellac both use a UV light to cure and set the nails. Excessive UV light (like tanning beds) clearly increases the risk of skin cancer. There are even 2 case reports in the literature of women who developed skin cancer on their hands that may have been related to repeated UV light exposure from manicures. There is a solution to this dilemma which would be to apply sunscreen prior to the manicure. That being said, I don’t think I would want to expose my hands to UV light every two weeks for the rest of my life just to have perfectly manicured hands-that would add up to a lot of unnecessary UV exposure. But I do think that if this treatment is done occasionally and sunblock is applied prior to the manicure, the risk of exposure is much less significant. The great thing about Shellac is that, unlike traditional gel manicures, it does not require extended soaking in acetone or chipping/drilling for removal. The nails are just wrapped in an acetone soaked gauze for 10 minutes and the product is removed. So the verdict is “Shellac” is a great new option for people who seek long lasting manicures. In moderation, and with sunscreen, this technology could really make chipped nails a thing of the past!
Hang nails occur when the cuticle is very dry. The skin around the cuticle becomes damaged and rough and this leads to hang nails. Clipping and cutting the cuticle during manicures can predispose you to hang nails. This practice can also increase your risk of nail infections and should be avoided anyway. So the first step to avoid hangnails is to stop clipping the cuticles. Certain nail products such as acrylic glue and even some nail polishes contain ingredients that contribute to irritation of the cuticles and the skin around the nails so it is smart to avoid these. The best way to treat hangnails is to hydrate the skin around the nails. You can do this by using a thick ointment like Vaseline on the skin around the nails daily. This will also help to grow healthy nails, so you can get an extra added benefit. An easy way to do this is to keep a tube of Vaseline Intensive Care lip balm with you (in your purse or your car). It is small and convenient and you will remember to apply the ointment no matter where you are. With regular use of a hydrating ointment, hangnails should resolve within 4-5 weeks.