Is nail polish good for nails? Episode 28

Is nail polish good or bad for your nails? Should you soak your nails in water? What’s the ONE product that’s proven to protect nails? Today’s show is full of nail knowledge you need to know! AND once again Randy challenges me to a rousing game of Beauty Science or Bullsh*t.

Show notes

Beauty Science or Bullsh*t

This is the game where we test your scientific sleuthing skills – we give you 3 beauty science headlines and you have to pick the fake one.

  1. The intercellular “glue” that holds skin cells together helps control the shape of those cells.
  2. The latest weapon against germs is a new protein-based antibacterial paint.
  3. Using a blow dryer is more “green” than towel drying your hair.

Listen to the show for the answer!

Question of the week: Is nail polish good for nails?

Mary Ellen asks: Is it healthy for us to wear nail polish? Does it provide any protection or our nails better off bare?

Nail knowledge: 5 fun facts

  1. Fingernails grow faster on your dominant hand (Micro-trauma theory)
  2. Fingernails grow twice as fast as toenails: fingernails grow 3.5 mm per month, toenails grow at 1.6 mm per month.
  3. Women’s nails grow more slowly than men’s, except possibly during pregnancy.
  4. Nails grow more rapidly in summer than in winter.
  5. Soaking nails in water actually make them drier.

Why does water make nails drier?

First, you have to understand that the optimal moisture level for nails is about 16%: at that level the water allows the nail to bend without fracturing. More water than that makes nails so soft that they will tear; less water makes them so brittle they will crack.

Now, here’s why soaking in water dries them out: There are two compounds that are primarily responsible for holding moisture in nails: Urea and lactic acid. The proper level of these two compounds modulates the moisture content at that optimal level of 16% level. But these are compounds are water soluble so soaking your nails in water can leach out these materials. Once they’re gone the nails lose even more moisture.

To make these worse, surfactants (the soaps and detergents you use to wash your hands) and solvents (like those found in polishes and polish removers) can strip out even MORE of these water binding materials.

How to properly hydrate nails

You need to restore compounds like like urea and lactic acid which increase the water holding capacity of the nail.

Only lotions with urea in the range of 5% to 20% are effective less than that won’t work and more than that can actually over soften the mail.
If you apply it infrequently it won’t do much good because the humectancy doesn’t last very long. But you shouldn’t apply it more than twice a day because frequent applications can damage the nail plate.

So is polish GOOD for you nails? The answer is not that clear cut – there are some positives AND some negatives associated with nail polish use.

Nail polish problems

Toxic fumes: The process of applying the polish can be potentially harmful because of exposure to solvents. Not likely a problem if will ventilated and in frequent usage but certainly over exposure to fumes can cause some problems.

Staining: Some of the darker colored polishes can stain nails due to a chemical reaction between the colorant and the nail plate. This reaction is hard to predict because it doesn’t happen for everybody for every dark color. It can also take a few days to a few weeks to occur. It’s also possible that formaldehyde (one of the ingredients in many nail polishes) is causing the problem. This chemical can react with the keratin protein in your nails and make it brittle and yellow.

Brittleness: Another problem with formaldehyde is that it can react with protein (cross linking the chains) and actually make the nail more brittle. Double edged sword – can harden nails by this cross linking process but too much is a bad thing.

Dryness: Applying nail polish exposes the nail to solvents. So does using polish remover. As we just discussed, solvents can strip out the compounds that help keep nails hydrated. (Dry out both the nail itself and the surrounding skin.)

Infections: If you have an mani or a pedi done professionally you may be exposed to conditions which can lead infections, not just of nails but of skin

Benefits of nail polish

Polishes with cross linking agents can harden nails and make them stronger (although too much can make them brittle.)

Nail polishes strengthen by adding a protective layer over the nail plate that actually makes the nail thicker. This is usually from a film forming ingredient in the polish like the toluene sulfonamide resin or polyester

Polish also acts as a barrier to prevent water contact and as we know water can weaken nails. So the polish keeps the nail stronger.

The best nail product ever?

While researching today’s show we came across a product that is characterized as a “medical nail polish.” A colorless, water soluble nail lacquer that is categorized (in Europe) as a medical device for treating nail dystrophy. It consists of 3 ingredients

  • Hydroxypropyl-chitosan (HPCH) a bio polymer that is a film former (similar chemistry as shrimp shells).
  • Horse tail extract (not sure what this is supposed to do.)
  • Methylsulphonyl-methane (a penetration enhancer, presumably to deliver the HPCH into the nail.)

Two studies which prove it works: Journal of Dermatology and Clinical Research and Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology.

The catch is that it’s tough to find: the only commercially available product that uses this technology we could locate is called “SILILEVO medical nail polish”…. and the only place we could find it was through eBay.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Do: Use polish to strengthen and support brittle nails
Don’t: Use polishes or strengthener that contain formaldehyde
Do: Hydrate nails with a urea and lactic acid cream (twice a day). (and do avoid water contact as much as possible.)
Don’t :Change your nail polish frequently to avoid over drying the nail.

And…look for SILILEVO medical nail polish (or a similar product if you can find one.)

LIL buy it now button

Buy your copy of It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick to learn more about:

  • Clever lies that the beauty companies tell you.
  • The straight scoop of which beauty myths are true and which are just urban legends.
  • Which ingredients are really scary and which ones are just scaremongering by the media to incite an irrational fear of chemicals.
  • How to tell the difference between the products that are really green and the ones that are just trying to get more of your hard earned money by labeling them “natural” or “organic.

Click here for all the The Beauty Brains podcasts.