For so long, nail care has been a beauty basic I’ve neglected. Growing up, I was a notorious nail-biter (my friends called me “Frodo Fingers” after the Lord of the Rings character who, in the film, had distinctly nubby nails) until a jaw injury actually, physically prevented me from biting my nails any longer.
However, even after I broke that bad habit, years of poor diet, the use of toxic polish and polish remover, and the application of artificial nails resulted in weak, peeling, yellow nails and unsightly cuticles.
In a world of beautifully shaped, perfectly manicured nails, mine were nothing short of embarrassing. I was far behind the nail trends because I was physically incapable of keeping pace with them. My nails simply would not comply.
The pressure is great to complete your look with a meticulous manicure—so great that we just might succumb to all the expectations and toxic products of the industry.
The most toxic ingredients in nail polish are Formaldehyde, Toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate, Formaldehyde Resin, Camphor, and Parabens, which are endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic, among many worst possible effects. At the least, these chemicals cause damage and discoloration. In nail polish remover, some of the most suspect toxins are Acetone, Toluene, Ethyl Acetate, and Methanol. And don’t even get me started on artificial nails! In addition to all the damage of polish and polish remover, artificial nails (and the products used to remove them) can also cause inflammation, infection, and sensitivity. Even worse, they basically deconstruct your nail over time.
Thankfully, there are some healthier alternatives, the use of which has gradually restored my natural nails to a more manicured look. Below, I will share recipes for both a healthy, homemade nail polish and polish remover as well as my routine when it comes to nail care.
There is only one recipe I’ve found for a healthy, homemade nail polish that actually works, and, unfortunately, it can only be used to paint your nails red because it is made from Alkanet root powder, which is red. You can use a henna-based nail polish recipe for more colors; however, I have never tried this since—being a dye that will stain your nail—the only way to “remove” it is to let your nail grow out.
Because of the severely limited options when it comes to healthy, homemade nail polish (which just goes to show how chemically-based store-bought nail polish really is), I will occasionally use a “natural,” store-bought polish that is free from the most toxic ingredients. I will list some of those products below.
You will need:
- 4 tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
- 3 tsp. alkanet root powder
- 1/2 tsp. beeswax
- 1/2 tsp. jojoba oil
Stir the olive oil and Alkanet root powder together in a small saucepan over medium heat until warm. Remove from heat and strain the oil from the powder with a fine mesh strainer. Return the (now tinted) oil to the saucepan and add beeswax. Once wax is melted, add jojoba oil. Stir and remove from heat.
Directions for used:
Once the mixture cools to a warm temperature and before it hardens, apply the polish to your nails with either a clean nail polish or makeup brush and allow to dry. Pour the remaining polish into a container. Before each application, the polish will need to be re-heated.
Be aware that using natural ingredients and methods to remove nail polish will certainly take more time and effort than removing polish with a store-bought remover.
You will need:
- White vinegar and citrus fruit
- Rubbing alcohol
- Nail filer
Directions (for use):
The ingredients listed above provide three different methods for removing polish. For the first, combine 1/4 cup white vinegar with the juice of a citrus fruit into a small bowl, soak your nails in the solution for as long as needed, and then use a cotton ball to swab away polish. For the second, use a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol to swab away polish. And, lastly, for the third, simply (and carefully so as not to damage your nail!) file polish away.
Commercial Nail Polish
Find a nail polish that is “5-Free” (free of the top 5 toxins commonly found in nail polish). at least. My favorite brands are:
- Honeybee Gardens
- Scotch Naturals
For a more comprehensive list of “non-toxic” nail polishes visit http://www.allure.com/gallery/best-nontoxic-5-7-9-free-nail-polishes
I don’t have much of a routine when it comes to nail care, honestly (or, at least, not a very detailed one). I don’t wear polish often, but on the rare occasions I do, it’s either homemade or a quality brand. Other than that, I treat my cuticles daily with either my healthy, homemade body lotion (you can find the recipe for that lotion here) or lash serum (recipe to come), and I clip, file, and buff them once a week (I like to keep my nails shorter for practical reasons). Without the breakage, discoloration, and damage typical of chemically-cared-for nails, your routine is greatly simplified because your nails become more naturally beautiful and healthy.
However, the best thing you can do for your nails is to establish healthy eating habits. Protein, zinc, calcium, magnesium, biotin, and omega-3s all work together to keep your nails strong, and without adequate amounts of these nutrients, your nail strength and health will gradually deplete. Taking supplements will never be as effective as eating sufficient amounts of nutrient-dense foods, so rely on lean meats, fish, healthy dairy products, eggs, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, dark chocolate, etc. to keep your nails in good health!
After caring for your skin, hair, teeth, and nails in the most healthy and effective ways, you are almost done mastering the 5 beauty basics of self-care, setting a good foundation in order to reveal your best look!
Follow my blog for more natural, healthy self-care products and routines (and more!). In my next post in the “Spring Clean You Look” series, I will be writing about eyebrows and lashes—how to shape, but, most importantly, grow them using safe and healthy products and techniques.
(This post is the fifth in the “Spring Clean Your Look” series. You can find the first post of that series here.)