Bring your own tools to the nail salon. Adolescent girls are seeing increased numbers of fungal infections from improperly sterilized instruments at salon parties. Don’t let nail technicians push back cuticles, which can create an entry for fungus.
Use shellac instead of polish. Shellac doesn’t chip off (it’s similar to a dental sealant), lasts up to six weeks and helps hydrate and reinforce nails.
Biotin, a B vitamin supplement, at 2.5 milligrams a day, can strengthen nails.
Don’t let salons buff or sand the surface of your nail before painting it. This can thin or weaken the nail bed.
Pay attention to changes in your nails, which can be signs of melanoma, diabetes, thyroid disease, liver disease, psoriasis and fungal infection.
Crash diets can kill your hair. Hair needs protein and iron, as well as omega-3s, zinc and vitamin A. Diets not recommended by a physician can lack nutrients and stunt hair growth or make it dull and limp.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in salmon and walnuts, as well as supplements that keep hair and nails healthy. Eat spinach and carrots for vitamin A, brazil nuts for selenium and cashews for zinc.
Protect hair from sun damage. Evenly distributing hair sunscreen can be incredibly difficult. Don’t fear a good hat or head scarf to protect your hair and scalp from sun damage.
Less is more: Blowdry, hot-style, wash and brush hair less, especially during the dry winter, to avoid drying out and breaking hair.
Hair Loss: Drugs that can cause hair loss include: anticlotting drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, antidepressants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics and drugs for menopause and birth control. Talk to your doctor about risk factors and early signs.
Dandruff: Doctors still don’t know what causes it, but it’s not contagious or harmful. Leave dandruff shampoos on for five minutes and rinse well. Yellow, greasy dandruff may be seborrheic dermatitis, but can still be treated with dandruff shampoo. Severe cases may need prescription steroids or antifungal medications.
Hair Analysis: Companies claim to be able to detect health problems and vitamin deficiencies by performing a hair analysis, but they really only detect poisons such as lead and arsenic. Those test results are so easily influenced—even by shampoo—the American Medical Association says they can’t be trusted.
“A cuticle oil…hydrates and conditions cuticles and keeps them from drying out and cracking. Make (a sugar scrub) at home with brown sugar, regular sugar or salt, and coconut or grapeseed oil. Keep it by your sink and, after you wash them, scrub on and rinse off for a one-minute manicure.” —Amber Osborn, nail technician, Louisville
“For hair and nails you want to focus on B vitamins, so eat green, leafy veggies, whole grains, and take a multi-vitamin as well. …Also, fatty fish like salmon or a fish oil supplement can help skin be plump and moisturized especially (where) we don’t have abundant access to seafood.” —Franziska Bishop, nutritionist, Longmont
“Hair gets so dry and staticky here, it’s important to keep moisture and protein in it if it’s highlighted or processed in any way. You can do that with sprays and leave-in conditioners, or salons can do conditioning treatments, which can have the protein and moisturizing factors that you need.” —Lindsi Flynn, hairstylist, Longmont