Nails are composed of layers of keratin, a protective protein manufactured by the body. Our nails grow continuously, but with time, however, the growth rate slows down as we age. As a matter of fact, it takes 160 days for a fingernail to regrow completely. When the body does not receive enough of nutrients needed to create healthy keratin, the result may be dry and brittle nails that crack and break easily.
The two basic types of products are nail hardeners and nail hydrators. Nail hardeners make your nails feel harder and become less prone to splitting and breaking. On the other hand, nail hydrators work by using ingredients that moisturize the nail to keep it elastic, so it bends rather than breaks. Formulation-wise, they are relatively thick, emulsion based products like creams and lotions with ingredients like mineral oil, glycerin, petrolatum and beeswax (ingredients you would commonly find in an intensive moisturizer).
Nail hardeners add connectors artificially, but this also means that by adding more connectors, they’re taking away from space wherein moisture can enter/be retained, potentially dehydrating the nail and reducing flexibility. If something becomes too rigid, it is less able to withstand great force (think of a tree branch – the drier and more rigid, the more easily it will snap).
For this reason, it’s SUPER important to make sure you’re using a strengthener and not JUST a hardener.
Strengtheners, unlike hardeners, don’t just seek to fill in the gaps where keratin is missing, but instead seek to balance the nail’s needs of hydration and keratin bonds.
Dry, brittle nails will feel dry, rigid, and likely to crack if bent the wrong way. You’ll likely experience flaking on the nail plate. This is especially common if you’re changing out your polish frequently and using acetone polish remover.
Soft, weak nails will be flexible, bending easily at the tips. They can peel at the free edge if caught at a weak spot, leaving layered stragglers behind.
For all nail types, I recommend starting by cutting out acetone polish remover which is extremely drying. Also remember that the nail grows from the inside! Eat healthy foods, especially colorful veggies. You can also try hydrating treatments or a hydrating strengthening treatment. Additionally, taking a break from polish can do wonders for the nail plates. During this time, massage Sweet Almond Oil or Coconut Oil or most especially cuticle oil into the nail plate & cuticles twice daily.
The importance of cuticle oil cannot be emphasised upon more. Click Here to view the benefits of cuticle oil.