Though many women are obsessed with their nails, we sure put them through some major abuse. Biting, using them as tools, and peeling off our gel manicures are just a few of the horrible habits we'll admit to. Manicurists backstage at New York Fashion Week paint dozens of talons per show and only have a few minutes to make them look gorgeous. To make their jobs even more challenging, models are hopping from runway to runway. This means claws are getting cleaned, shaped, and painted, then doused with acetone polish remover before the process starts over again at the next show (resulting in some serious nail stress!). We consulted pros on the most common issues they see, how you can fix them at home, and other top tips.
Brittleness and Peeling
All three of the professionals we consulted declared brittle nails to be the number one problem seen backstage. Jin Soon Choi, seasoned NYFW manicurist and founder/owner of the Jin Soon spas and polish line, cites failure to moisturize, lack of nail maintenance, and malnutrition as sources of this issue. She recommends people with this concern "drink a lot of water" as internal dehydration could be to blame.
Celebrity manicurist Gina Edwards for KISS Products, Inc., shares that dry nail beds are also often caused by constant application of polish remover, which desiccates the nail. Michelle Saunders, celebrity manicurist for Essie, adds, "Brittle nails can be caused from not removing nail polish in due time — found on many models at Fashion Week. Be sure to remove the polish when it starts to chip and apply a good base and top coat."
"The correct name for this nail condition is called 'leukonychia,'" reports Saunders. "This is caused from slight trauma to the nail bed." Being gentler on your hands and nails will prevent these from occurring in the future. However, there's no way to treat them once you have them. "Allow time for them to heal and grow out," says Edwards.
This is commonly caused by lack of moisture to the nail. "Moisturize your nails with cuticle oil a few times a day," suggests Choi. However, if you take good care of your claws and they're still cracking on the edges, they may just be too long for your lifestyle. Saunders advises that those with this issue trim and shape their nails weekly.
"Nails split because they are dehydrated or because they are paper thin," Choi says. Saunders agrees and recommends daily use of cuticle oil like the Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil ($9). Choi adds, "Take vitamins that make your nails stronger, such as biotin or fish oil, and eat plenty of dark greens." Dark green vegetables are rich in calcium, which fortifies your bones as well as your nails.
"I know a hand model who swears by Jell-O for firming up soft nails," divulges Choi. "The theory is that the ingredient that makes liquid Jell-O convert to a solid (gelatin!) imparts the same firming effect on your nails." She confesses that she's not sure if this sweet-treat trick is scientifically accurate, but she also recommends using a nail strengthener with keratin and protein. We like Jin Soon Power Coat ($18), which, in addition to keratin, biotin, and calcium, contains diamond particles to harden your manicure.
"Hangnails occur when you use your hands a lot," says Saunders. "Never ever pick, pull, or bite your hangnails." Edwards recommends preventing this issue by keeping nails hydrated with coconut or jojoba oil. If you want to remove them yourself, Choi offers a solution for removal: "Soak them and snip only the hangnails when they are soft, then moisturize them afterward."
Mistakes to Avoid
As attractive as they may be, Choi advises that you pass on trying out acrylics. "They can destroy healthy nails, and once that happens, it's difficult to get them back," she says. Additionally, if you've ever bit off the skin around your nails (we're guilty!), Edwards begs you to stop. "Not only is it unsanitary, but it can lead to a nail infection if the skin is irritated and open."
Tips to Follow
Saunders wholeheartedly recommends keeping a soft file, base coat, cuticle oil, quick-dry top coat, and hand cream nearby on a daily basis. After all, if you have access to the proper tools, you'll use them . . . instead of your teeth. Adds Choi, "Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize — technically that's three, but I can't stress it enough!"