I have a confession. Until very recently, I had acrylic on my nails. I know! Totally not holistic although they were definitely haute. Each time I put the acrylic on, I felt like I was going against my own philosophies, so I knew I would have to stop. I kept telling myself that as soon as I ran out of powder or glue I would stop filling them and let them grow out naturally.

Change of plans.

For acrylic nails to adhere to the nail properly, the nail bed needs to be dehydrated. Otherwise the acrylic (or gel, or silk wraps, etc.) will lift which makes the nails susceptible to nail fungus. Yuck.

Well with all my recent changes in diet and lifestyle (including drinking much more water and eating a lot more raw foods, many of which contain water), I guess my nail beds became too hydrated for the acrylic, because they started lifting pretty quickly after I would fill them (which also became quite frequent since they started growing like weeds), so I literally had to fill or fix my nails about twice a week. Side note: I do my own nails and have done them myself for quite some time now. My sister-in-law who is a cosmetologist taught me how years ago and I’ve also gotten some great tips from my friend Jennifer (who has some great tips for you too) who is a highly experienced manicurist. I learned to do them to save money and avoid breathing in all the fumes at the salon—even though doing them myself still generated some fumes and particulate matter.

So since I now have nails that are oily, hydrated, and grow fast, keeping up with the acrylics got to be a real chore. I just do not have time for all of that. So I took the acrylics off, and of course my nails became completely weak and thin, but luckily that was only temporary as they grew out.

Time to rebuild.

I got some amazing nail colors from SpaRitual and Zoya, two professional nail care brands that specialize in polishes for natural nails. The best thing is that they are also free from many of the major chemicals such as toluene, formaldehyde, DBP/phthalates (many of which are on the lists of toxic chemicals to avoid). Both lines carry base coats and top coats, as well as other supporting products to speed drying time and enhance wear; and the color palettes are amazing.

SpaRitual colors: Fickle; Health, Wealth, and Happiness; Garden of Eden, NutriThick. Zoya colors: Jana, Jem, Pandora, Edyta.

I also did a little homework on some foods and nutrients to eat more of to strengthen my nails from the inside out. Fortunately I was already doing a lot of the suggestions I found: reducing/eliminating refined sugars, increasing my daily consumption of water, increasing raw food intake, limiting acidic foods, increasing intake of healthy fats like coconut oil and essential fatty acids like Omega 3s; and increasing my intake of plant protein with foods such as nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, and whole grains.

In addition, I found suggestions to supplement with “royal jelly, spirulina or kelp, which are rich in silica, zinc, and B vitamins, and help to strengthen nails”; and also read about how doing daily soaks in warm olive oil or ACV for ten to twenty minutes at a time was known to help* (another topical use for ACV!) Easy enough, right?

After my nails started to improve I started using SpaRitual’s NutriThick which helps strengthen the nails themselves with proteins, plant extracts, and oils.

I also sought professional help.

My friend Jennifer, as mentioned above, is a great manicurist with lots of experience. She gave me some great pointers to share with you about how to strengthen, support, and protect natural nails: all of which help nails get healthier and polish stay on longer. She says:

“Hydration comes from within, so obviously drink lots of water. Keep OIL, not LOTION, handy to rub into your cuticles. It keeps them healthy, and helps keep them from drying out. You don’t have to buy “cuticle oil” you can use olive oil or any other oil you have in your kitchen. And DON’T PICK!!!!! If you have a hangnail, then have someone trim it for you if you don’t have a manicurist! BUT DON’T PICK!!!!! And wear gloves when washing the dishes and/or cleaning.”

The test:

I decided to try my super-top-secret argan and essential oil blend as a cuticle oil since it does such wonders for the skin and nails (both of which are comprised of different types of the protein keratin, just like nails). It did wonders for my nails and cuticles.

I got a fabulous new SpaRitual nail color for Christmas, so I decided it was time to put it all to the test. I had tried wearing the polishes on my nails when they were still really thin and brittle, but it chipped off since the nails were so weak…every time the nail bent or moved, the polish would chip. So now that my nails have recovered and are much stronger, I am happy to report that five days after applying the polish (with the help of SpaRitual’s primer, base coat, top coat, and Zoya’s Fast Drops Polish Dryer, my nails look just as good as they did after my manicure.

I definitely followed Jennifer’s advice and the great nutrition tips I read about, because you really do have to be more careful with natural nails if you want your polish to last. That was one thing about acrylic…it’s practically indestructible which is one of the reasons I kept it on for so long.

Just after doing my nails, wearing SpaRitual’s Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

 

One last note:

Before the toxin police come at me about how these two nail polish brands still contain some harmful chemicals, I want to tell you that I know. They are not perfect. The truth is that no nail polish is going to be completely free of chemicals. The ones that I’ve tried from health food stores just don’t stay on or look nice, and I have tried several. It’s just like with makeup…there are some completely “safe” ones out there but they don’t show up or wear well so I can’t recommend them.

Anyone has the option to not wear nail polish at all, but for those of us who enjoy wearing it, I think Zoya and SpaRitual are safer options than other professional brands and they wear fantastically well. I do want to say again that I prefer doing my nails at home so I avoid breathing in the salon fumes on a regular basis and save money.

I know there are some beautiful “green” nail salons out there that only use products from companies like Zoya and SpaRitual so that exposure to toxic fumes is minimized; but services at those salons typically cost more. It is much easier for me to just do my own nails when I am unwinding for the evening in front of the TV, but if you have a green nail salon near you and you can afford to go there to get your nails done I say go ahead and enjoy yourself. Someday when I am rich and famous I’ll join you there 🙂

5 days later…not a single touch-up needed.

1/10/12 Edited to add:  

After reading this post, Jennifer noted that the powder I was using on my nails was not the same as the acrylic that is used at most nail salons. They are chemically very different. She notes:

“Acrylic is comprised of a liquid monomer and a powdered polymer. They bind together to form the acrylic coating. The monomer is ethyl-methacrylate. The primary ingredient in acrylic powder is polyethylmethylmethacrylate, a combination of 70 percent ethyl methacrylate and 30 percent methyl methacrylate. Powder and glue is not the same. Nail glue is made of cyanoacrylate, which is basically surgical glue. Filler powder is Polymethyl Methacylate. Although the components of the filler powder and the acrylic powder are similar, they ARE different products. Acrylic powder doesn’t bind well to nail glue. I have tried to use acrylic powder to do powder and glue, and it just stays tacky and rolls off the nail under the file. Also, because acrylic is done with liquid, it has less viscosity and therefore is absorbed more deeply by the nail plate, whereas nail glue is thicker, and only permeates one or two layers of the nail. In the grand scheme of things though, you could probably, for arguments sake, call it acrylic, because most people don’t know the difference. But they are different.”

Thanks for the clarification, Jennifer! See? I told you she knows her stuff 🙂

*Balch, Phyllis A, CNC. and James F. Balch, MD. 2000. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Third Edition. New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc. pp. (later editions are now available)

**Image 1 courtesy of Universal Companies/Spa Pantry.
*** See Disclaimer

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