Massage, file, moisturize, paint. Who doesn’t love a good pedi? But today, even mainstream media is calling attention to the potential dangers of conventional nail products and treatments; a May 2015 New York Times article, Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers, reported on the health issues manicurists and other salon workers had experienced, including everything from allergies to miscarriages to cancer. As a result, more people are waking up to the risks of caustic treatments and conventional products.
While the chemical-based nail salon biz is still big (and many of these treatments and products that line the shelves of conventional retailers are made with caustic chemicals), the good news—and yes, there is good news—is that we need not forgo our nail treatments entirely. In fact, innovative natural brands are giving us even more reasons to enjoy a mani or pedi by using ingredients that are actually healthy for you and your nails.
Case in point: Arizona-based Scotch Naturals. Initially introducing water-based polishes, Scotch soon realized that its consumers wanted even higher performance. Rather than rejecting science and technology, Scotch embraced them to develop something that can be an industry game changer at both retail stores and salons: a plant-based lacquer made from castor oil and grain alcohol. “Our hopes were always that this new nature-based lacquer will completely replace nitrocellulose-based nail lacquers,” says Ginny Cardenas, founder of Scotch Naturals. “Win-win for consumers and for the technicians.”
Healthy nails tips
Thanks to products like these, we can more easily dodge harmful ingredients. But even before a product touches your nails, it’s important to incorporate natural ingredients into your nail regimen. “By focusing on nurturing the skin and nails with natural products, the nails grow faster and stronger,” says Diana Bradshaw, owner and esthetician at Bradshaw Pure Esthetics. Before trying your new nontoxic paint, give your nails a detox; let them go polish free and regularly apply a simple, natural at-home treatment to restore their strength.
Bradshaw recommends massaging oil—such as neem, coconut, jojoba or even olive—into the nail and cuticle regularly. And, she says, if you’re eating a balanced diet and taking care of your nails, you can avoid nail strengtheners entirely.
A nail-boosting diet
Taking a look at your nails (literally) can help you pinpoint more nail-healthy practices you should try, starting with what you put in your body. An iron deficiency, for example, can cause dry skin and brittle nails, indicating you may need to increase your dietary protein or consider taking a protein supplement.
Other signs of deficiencies: Lines or white spots on nails may be a sign you need to up your zinc intake; increase zinc to at least 8 mg daily from foods such as oysters, crab, beef, beans, nuts, chickpeas and dark-meat poultry, or take a zinc supplement. Also, splitting or peeling nails are simply crying out, “I’m thirsty!” Drink plenty of water and supplement with healthy fats, such as gamma-linolenic acid. As Bradshaw attests: “The body is smart—it will heal itself if given the chance to be chemical free.”
Product picks for natural nails
Scotch Naturals NaturaLaq Polish
Give yourself a long-lasting natural mani or pedi with this unique alternative from Scotch. We love the va-va red.
Dr. Hauschka Neem Nail & Cuticle Pen
Your daily nail boost is just a swipe away with this new product that uses a combo of neem leaf, anthyllis and chamomile to strengthen nails and soothe cuticles.
La Fresh Nail Polish Remover Acetone-Free
Travel-friendly pads are great for stashing at your desk or into a carry-on. Free from stinky acetone, they're also biodegradable, and one pad removes polish from all ten nails. High five to that!