- Nail structure
- Nail health
- Best Essential Oils for Nail Strengthening and Health
- How to Use Essential Oils for Healthier and Stronger Nails
Nails are a part of our body that take on quite a lot of abuse in our daily lives. They help us scratch and grab things, and they protect our fingertips, as well as enhance the nerve sensations in fingertips.
Manicures, pedicures, nail or gel polish and nail polish removers, fake nails, washing the dishes or scrubbing the house without gloves, physical work or even washing your hands too frequently can cause problems. Nails often become brittle, thin and weak causing them to break and peel off easily.
Unhealthy looking nails can also be a sign of more serious health problems that require medical attention. Upward or downward-curved nails, nail pitting, yellow nails or excessively brittle nails might be related to psoriasis, organ disease, diabetes, iron-deficiency anaemia, fungal infection or vitamin deficiency.
Be especially cautious if you notice dark spots on your nails as it might be a sign of melanoma. It is advisable to consult a medical practitioner if this is the case.
However, if purely lifestyle is to be blamed for the problem, essential oils can offer a natural and simple way how to strengthen your nails. But before we start discussing the remedies, let’s find out more on the structure and health of the nails.
Nails consist of various parts, such as the matrix or nail root which is actually the part underneath the nail itself that produces cells to grow the nail above. The nail bed is the skin underneath the nail plate: the hard part of the nail.
The eponychium or the cuticle covers the back of the nail plate and protects it from infections, that is why you should never cut off your cuticles. The paronychium is the soft tissue around your nail and hyponychium is the epithelium between the free edge of the nail and the skin of the fingertip.
There are several factors that influence the health of your nails:
- A balanced diet and enough water intake will ensure your nails (and the body as a whole) obtain all the necessary nutrients and vitamins for healthy growth.
- Make it a habit to wear gloves when performing such activities as gardening, dishwashing or house-cleaning to keep your nails clean and protected from infections and the influence of detergents. This is also useful if you tend to have dry skin on your hands.
- Do not clip your nails, file them instead. This prevents splitting.
- Use hand cream after you wash your hands and after showering or bathing.
- Massage the cuticles to improve oxygen and nutrient supply.
Be sure to provide your body with all the necessary vitamins and minerals for nails:
- Vitamin A promotes healthy skin and nail growth among other benefits. It is found most in carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, eggs and other foods.
- Vitamin C has powerful antioxidant properties and it plays a critical role in collagen production which is an important protein that makes up a large part of our skin, hair and nails. The body neither produces, nor stores vitamin C so it is essential to consume it daily with such foods as oranges, blackcurrant, broccoli, kiwi, red pepper, brussels sprouts and others.
- Vitamin D which is produced by the body when reacting to sunshine helps maintain the health of teeth and bones by maintaining calcium and phosphorus levels, supports the immune system and regulates cell growth. Although the most efficient source of vitamin D is sunlight, for those people who are not in the sun much, several foods can come to aid, such as fish oil, fatty fish (herring, salmon, sardines, tuna etc.), eggs and milk, as well as mushrooms.
- Iron is needed to build and maintain red bloods cells. Brittle nails may indicate that you suffer from iron deficiency anaemia. After successful treatment of iron deficiency, the condition of your nails should improve. To ensure enough iron supply to your body, consume lentils, dark chocolate, spinach, sardines, raisins, black peas and other foods rich in iron.
- Magnesium is essential to the functioning of our bodies. A deficiency of the mineral can cause poor nail growth among other symptoms. To prevent this, pay attention to how much magnesium-rich foods are included in your diet. The best foods for sufficient magnesium intake are leafy greens, such as spinach, bananas, nuts, avocado or pumpkin seeds.
- Zinc is vital for healthy skin, hair and nails. It ensures healthy cell division, fights free radicals and slows the aging process. Zinc deficiency can cause white spots on the fingernails. To consume enough zinc with your diet, eat oysters, seafood, lamb, chicken, mushrooms, cocoa powder and spinach.
- Biotin or vitamin B7 belongs to a group of vitamins necessary for the metabolism, functioning of nerve and cardiovascular system, as well as digestion. There is research that suggests biotin supplements help improve the condition of brittle nails that tend to split. Naturally biotin can be found in salmon, eggs, cheese, avocado, nuts and other foods.
It is important to remember that vitamin and mineral supplements will only help if you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency. The only exception is biotin where biotin supplements have been proven to improve the condition of fingernails.
However, it is always beneficial to watch your diet and try to include the foods that have a high vitamin and mineral content to ensure the proper levels your body and nails need.
Best Essential Oils for Nail Strengthening and Health
1. Lemon (CITRUS LIMON)
While the valuable lemon once saved thousands of sailors from scurvy, it can also benefit your nails. Lemon essential oil is antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Its biggest power lies in its ability to clean toxins from the body.
The purifying lemon essential oil stimulates the flow of blood and lymph and nourishes the skin. Lemon essential oil will naturally disinfect your hands and nails and rid them of any hard to clean grease – simply add a couple of drops to your soap. This oil will also brighten your nails and make them shinier and healthier, as well as nourish the cuticles.
2. Rosemary (ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS)
Besides smelling gorgeous, refreshing and calming at the same time, rosemary essential oil is a universal tool to have at home. It is antibacterial and antifungal among many other beneficial properties.
It improves circulation and the look of your skin, as well as the condition of your fingernails. High in antioxidants, it will help restore the natural healthy state of your nails and make them stronger. Rosemary essential oil is also a good remedy against nail fungus.
3. Cypress (CUPRESSUS SEMPERVIRENS)
The essential oil of this evergreen tree has many beneficial features. It is antiseptic and antibacterial, as well as stimulating. Cypress essential oil can rejuvenate the skin and improve its appearance.
Since one of its chemical constituents is α-pinene, cypress essential oil has strong renewing properties which could help your nails become stronger, healthier and better-looking. Plus, it is also extremely effective in uplifting the mood and clearing the mind from unnecessary clutter, so your nail treatment might also make you feel a whole lot better!
4. Grapefruit (CITRUS PARADISI)
The Latin name of grapefruit is Citrus paradisi, thus it is not surprising that the smell of grapefruit essential oil might remind you of an aromatic tropical plant paradise! In addition to being a powerful antidepressant, grapefruit essential oil is antiseptic, antimicrobial, cleansing, disinfectant, stimulant and tonic.
You can even make a natural nail polish remover from grapefruit, lemon and sweet orange essential oil! Grapefruit essential oil will moisturize your cuticles and stimulate nail growth.
5. Carrot (DAUCUS CAROTA)
Carrot seed essential oil is a must-have beauty oil. It has antiseptic, toning and stimulating properties, and it is rich in antioxidants, as well as Vitamin B, promoting growth.
Carrot seed essential oil is rejuvenating, brightening and balancing thus it can renew your dull and peeling nails to their natural condition in no time.
6. Lavender (LAVANDULA ANGUSTIFOLIA)
The antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic lavender essential oil is beloved by almost everyone, and for a good reason. It soothes skin conditions, bruises and burns, headaches, insomnia and can even help with mild infections.
Lavender essential oil will moisturize your cuticles and protect them from bacteria, all the while promoting keratin growth. The antifungal properties of lavender essential oil are effective in combating nail fungus as well.
7. Myrrh (COMMIPHORA MYRRHA)
Myrrh essential oil is said to be the best oil for nails there is. Commiphora myrrha has been used for millennia in various parts of the world.
Its essential oil has antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and tonic properties, making it fit to soothe respiratory, as well as skin conditions among other complaints, and improve the overall look of skin, hair and nails. Myrrh essential oil is a wonderful moisturizer that will help your cuticles and fingernails stay healthy and strong.
8. Frankincense (BOSWELLIA CARTERII)
Frankincense is an ancient plant closely related to religious practices still today. In addition to the great meditative qualities of frankincense essential oil, it is also antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antioxidant and tonic. It reduces stress and boost the immune system.
However, frankincense essential oil is also a wonderful oil to include in your beauty routine. It ensures a radiant and smooth skin, prevents hair loss and moisturizes the cuticles around your fingernails, battles nail fungus and helps your nails become stronger, shinier and healthier.
9. Geranium (PELARGONIUM GRAVEOLENS)
Geranium essential oil is another valuable addition to your beauty care, as it has great moisturizing properties. This essential oil is also antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, regenerative and tonic.
It improves circulation and supports cell growth, promoting the growth of your nails. Geranium essential oil will moisturize the cuticles and protect them from infections.
10. Tea tree oil (MELALEUCA ALTERNIFOLIA)
Finally, tea tree essential oil is definitely the best antiseptic there is. It also has antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties, making tea tree essential oil the best household tool for ensuring your fingernails stay healthy.
Use tea tree essential oil to disinfect your hands and nails, for instance, adding it to your natural soap. If you suffer from nail fungus, try treating it with tea tree oil.
For more on uses of essential oils, and different things they can be used for, please check out our complete list of essential oils and what they are used for here.
How to Use Essential Oils for Healthier and Stronger Nails
To promote nail growth and health, the best way to use essential oils is to rub them into your cuticles and nails regularly, diluted in a carrier oil like jojoba, evening primrose, grapeseed, avocado, apricot kernel or almond.
Choose either one of the oils mentioned or make a blend of several essential oils in an approximately 2%-5% dilution in a carrier oil. For example, add 5 drops of lavender essential oil to 10 ml of carrier oil. Store in dark glass bottle and use daily for the best effect.
If you want to make a blend, take 10 ml of avocado oil, a couple of drops of evening primrose, 3 drops of lemon essential oil, one drop of carrot oil and 2 drops of rosemary essential oil. Use in the same way as said before.
To enhance the effect of essential oils, you can soak your hands in warm water before applying the blend.
Another way to use the benefits of essential oils is to make a natural hand cream, adding the oils that are best at promoting the growth of stronger and healthier nails. An added benefit is the fact that these essential oils are also good for your skin.
Remember to take care of your overall health and diet, throw essential oils into the mix and your fingernails and hands will look beautiful and well-cared for in no time!
Caution! Always conduct a patch test on the skin when trying out a new essential oil and avoid using essential oils undiluted as well as ingesting them without prior knowledge. It is best to consult a medical practitioner before using any essential oil, especially in the case of pregnancy, epilepsy or when used on children. This article does not substitute professional medical advice and is meant for general information purposes only.