My unpolished nails are a rare sight. I’m pretty sure I inherited my brittle, peeling nails from my mother’s side of the family (we bond over complaining about our nails). Although eating a vegan diet seems to have made my nails stronger (I credit improved digestion and plant power!), they’re still prone to peeling if not lacquered. As we all know, however, nail polish is no saint (not even three-free polish). First off, it’s drying, leaving one in a bit of a Catch-22 since dried-out nails peel more if left unvarnished. Second, darker shades can stain or yellow nails. Therefore, I think it’s a good idea for polish addicts (myself included) to give nails a few days to breathe.
Below are the steps I take for a healing, sans-polish, DIY natural manicure to help restore the appearance of nails.
After removing old polish (if necessary), shape nails with a glass file (less damaging than emery and metal files). File in only one direction–do not saw back and forth since this will increase the tearing of the nail. Make sure to gently smooth any rough or jagged areas to prevent snagging.
Next, remove the stains from your nails with a simple mix of baking soda, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Vary proportions according to your preference for texture:
½ tsp. organic olive oil
1 tbl. baking soda
Juice of ½ lemon
(Lemon juice and baking soda will fizz!)
Using a fingernail brush or old toothbrush, scrub fingernails for a good minute then let the mixture sit on nails for five minutes. Rinse and admire your brightened nails!
While you’ve got your hands wet, exfoliate and massage them with a natural scrub. I used Shea Terra Organics Argan & Olive Scrub (read the review here). You can also make your own scrub using equal parts olive oil and unrefined sugar. Spend extra time massaging the rough areas of your hands like your knuckles and the heel of your hand. Rinse and gently pat dry.
Moisturize your hands and nails with a thick balm. I used Beurre Shea Butter Body Cream—but you can also use—you guessed it—olive oil! Be sure to work the lotion/oil into your cuticles. Happy cuticles make nails look infinitely healthier. To help lock in moisture, wear a pair of cotton gloves or socks (yes, on your hands) while you watch a rerun of Mad Men.
Related: Non Toxic Manicure
Photos: Mary Hood