The nails and cuticles are very easy to neglect in a busy lifestyle. They are subjected to so much in our daily routine – washing dishes, the weather, and over the past year, the necessitated constant handwashing and exposure to chemical sanitisers. All of this can have a drying effect on the nails and cuticles, resulting in dry, damaged cuticles and brittle, flaky nails. Commercial hand and nail creams can seem to have an instant temporary effect, but on the whole they are full of unwanted chemicals and alcohol, and any perceived improvement is on the surface only. Long term they do not help, and instead may actually be exasperating the problems with their harsh ingredients.
The cuticle is a part of the skin which sits above the nail bed (or growth matrix) to protect it. The nail bed produces the nail plate – the visible part of the nail – which is made from a hard protein called keratin. If not cared for properly, the nail plate can dehydrate and become dry, brittle or damaged. As we age, the natural oils produced to care for the nail plate also tend to become less, which can result in ridges, slow growth, and nails more prone to damage.
The good news is that there are a multitude of natural oils which can help care for our nails and soon have them back to great health and looking fantastic. It should also be mentioned that most of the essential oils have antifungal and antibacterial properties, to protect against nail infections. Oils are absorbed into the nails much slower than water and make them more flexible, rather than soft. Furthermore, the oil evaporates or escapes much slower than water, thus retaining hydration.
The best way to use the oils is to soak the hands in warm water for a few minutes and then apply a couple of drops of the chosen oil to the nails and cuticles, massaging it in well. Don’t forget to rub any excess oil into the hands too, as the oils have great benefits for the skin as well.
Here’s our pick of 10 oils to get your nails in tip-top shape:
May be applied directly to the cuticles and nails:
Argan Oil is rich in vitamin E and fatty acids, and is well known for its amazing benefits for the skin, hair and nails. It will help to moisturise the cuticle, and smooth and regenerate the nail plate, giving it strength and protection against moisture loss and sun damage. It is the preferred oil by many manicurists and is often found in nail salons.
Perfect for softening and treating the cuticles. It is very similar to the sebum produced by the body and therefore is deeply absorbed. Full of vitamins E and B, plus proteins, minerals, fatty acids and other nutrients, Jojoba Oil helps to moisturise, reduce inflammation, repair damaged collagen and promote strong healthy, smooth and shiny nails.
Sweet Almond Oil
Wonderfully soothing and moisturising, it is full of antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and E to nourish and coat the cuticles and nail plate, protecting against cracking, peeling, dryness and breakage. Almond Oil is non-irritating and an excellent lubricant to plump the cuticles and promote strong healthy nails.
Extremely healing and moisturising, Olive Oil is packed with vitamin E, which helps in the process of calcification and thus promotes nail growth. It will soften hardened dehydrated cuticles, and strengthen brittle nails and make them more flexible to prevent breakage.
An excellent moisturiser for the cuticles and nail plate. Rich in vitamin E, omega fatty acids and protein Castor Oil will nourish the cuticles and nail bed, strengthen the nails and accelerate their growth. Nails will become more flexible and less prone to breakage, and will shine with health.
Should be diluted in a carrier oil (any of the above). Just add a few drops to one teaspoon of carrier oil.
Myrrh Essential Oil
Said to be the best essential oil for the nails. Superb moisturising, anti-inflammatory and tonic properties to provide healthy cuticles and nourish the nail bed. Myrrh promotes nail growth and adds hydration, strength and flexibility to prevent breakage and damage.
Frankincense Essential Oil
With similar properties to Myrrh, this oil will also promote healthier, stronger and shinier nails. Cuticles will be softened, hydrated and nourished, and any inflammation will be soothed.
Lavender Essential Oil
Soothing and hydrating, Lavender Oil helps to moisturise and strengthen both the cuticles and nails. It will promote keratin growth, encouraging longer, stronger nails.
Geranium (Pelargonium Graveolens) Essential Oil
Geranium Oil is known to improve circulation and cell growth, and thus promote nail growth. Moisturising and protecting, it will reduce any inflammation and ensure hydration of the nails to reduce brittleness and protect against breakage.
Lemon (Citrus Limon) Essential Oil
Lemon oil also stimulates blood flow and nourishes the nail bed and cuticles, promoting growth. The natural lightning effect of lemon oil will help to brighten the nails, reduce discolouration and add shine and strength.
So which will you choose? Remember that you can mix and match to create a perfect blend which works well for you.