For anyone out there fighting the good fight and trying to maintain natural nails, I salute you. It’s tough going.
And if you’ve recently weaned yourself off acrylics or gels, or are giving yourself a break from gel polish, your nails are probably like paper. I hear you, and I know someone who can legitimately help your plight. Let me explain.
Since an unfortunate and massive allergic reaction to gel polish last year, I’ve been going totally au naturel on the nail front. I was so dedicated to my fortnightly Shellac (exact same colour every time) that when I became allergic to anything that’s lamp-cured, I was a bit bereft. Nails are my thing.
I was going gel polish-free for the first time in a long while, and as a result, my nails were quite weak. So I did what I figured was the best thing for it. I bought Sally Hansen Diamond Strength and started using it about once a week. I used it as a base coat under colour or sometimes just on its own. My nails improved - great! It worked like a charm.
And then… A break. And another. And another, until all but one absolute soldier of a nail was clinging on, and nine of his fallen friends were publicly letting the side down. What was I doing wrong? I asked Pamela.
Pamela Laird is the Tom Bachik or Marian Newman of Ireland. She’s the nail tech on practically every editorial shoot, has done nails for the cover of Vogue and counts Olivia Palermo as a former client. I feel as though she should just be known by her first name, like Cher or Madonna.
Anyway, Pamela told me something I’d never considered.
“Nails need to be flexible so they don’t break. They don’t need to be super strong and hard all the time. Using a strengthener to get them to a certain point is good, but then you’ve to go back and start hydrating them and using something that’ll give them their flexibility back. Otherwise, although they’ll be strong and hard, they’ll snap in half if you catch them in anything!”
When she told me, I realised how blindingly obvious that was. But it hadn’t occurred to me. I was working so hard on making my nails super strong, I forgot that they need to be able to bend under pressure, rather than break.
Longer for longer
She also recommended these little nuggets for those of you trying to keep up high standards of natural polish (and keep it chip-free for longer than an hour):
- Always wear a base coat, because that’s really what prevents normal polish from chipping: a good foundation to paint on. It acts like double sided tape, grips to your nail and holds the polish in place.
- Give each nail a wipe with nail polish remover before painting on a fresh base, this gets rid of any oils on the nail and will help the paint adhere for longer.