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Home Remedy for Cracked Nails, Hangnails, and Dry, Shredded Cuticles
By Rob Hardwicke, President and Product Master

Cracked nails, dry nails and cuticles, and shredded cuticles are three very common ailments that often appear together. Not only can they be painful, but they can be very hard to eliminate. If you've tried various things to help with your cracked, dry nails, hangnails and shredded cuticles, but have not found a good long-term solution, then read on: If you follow these easy steps, your nails and cuticles will be back looking their very best in no time!

First of all, you need to understand that nail and cuticle trouble comes from two main things:

First, bad nail and cuticle care practices. For example, you may clip or cut your cuticles, or try to cover up your cracked nails with polish, only to find that your cuticles and nails get even worse! I'll talk about this problem below, but suffice it to say that most of the "nail strengthening" polishes and removers you have to use to get them off end up literally DESTROYING your nails and cuticles.

Second, from an overall misconception about nails and cuticles. (Guess what? They're part of your skin!) It's sort of strange, actually, because a lot of people who take really good care of their skin have trouble with nails and cuticles, not even realizing that they already hold the key to better nails and cuticles in their hands. The truth is, nails and cuticles are in fact part of the skin organ, and although they do have some special requirements, they have many of the same basic needs as the rest of your skin.

Okay, remember how I said that there are two things that cause most of the nail and cuticle trouble in the world? Well, I fibbed a little. There are actually three. In our five-step nail health plan below, I'll actually be starting with this one, because it's just so darn important.

1. Eat a Nail-Friendly Diet

Hmm. I may have just coined a phrase there. Anyway, just like your skin, the appearance of your nails and cuticles can offer some insights into your health and clues about your diet. Hangnails can be the result of a lack of Vitamin C or folic acid, or they can indicate a protein deficiency. Vertical ridges on your nails can be associated with an iron deficiency. Brittle nails may be the result of a Vitamin A deficiency. The complex of B vitamins is also important to nail health, and many people with dry nails see improvement when they add a supplement with those vitamins. There are also some key "environmental factors" related to nail health (see below), but simply taking a good multivitamin every day can resolve many of these nutrient issues (although I have to admit that I personally zero-in on a handful of specific vitamins and supplements at breakfast and then again at dinner).

Still, a diet of McDonald's and One-A-Days is not really what your body is after, and paying attention to your diet will not only make your nails look better, it'll make YOU feel better overall. So eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lots of water. Important nutrients include: Biotin, Folic Acid, and Silicon for nail thickness and strength; Omega 3's and Sulfur for nail flexibility and shine.

2. Hydrate & Heal

The thing to keep in mind about nails and cuticles is that, as part of the skin organ, they are living - not just dead cells with no ability to respond to stimulus. If you're familiar with Awakening's products, or if you've read some of the articles on our site, you know that proper hydration is the cornerstone of our products. In fact, "Hydrate & Heal" is our mantra around here. We've developed a proprietary formula called the Mineral Hydration Factorâ„¢ that transports moisture deep into your skin cells using the same minerals that your body uses to regulate its own internal hydration levels. That said, the absolute "best practice" for nail and cuticle health is to hydrate them properly.

So the question is, just how do you moisturize your nails and cuticles properly? Well, first of all, some bad news. Most of "moisturizing lotions" on the market are only doing half the job. They create a barrier on your skin so that moisture won't evaporate, but they don't actually give your skin cells any "moisture food" - any way to actually enhance their hydration levels. (This is something of another issue, but a lot of the products that make the most direct claims about moisturizing skin are full of the worst skin care ingredients on the market. Buyer beware!

Awakening's products provide true hydration with highly concentrated Dead Sea potassium - which is the human body's natural moisture regulator. Potassium is a so-called "essential mineral," because without it, your body wouldn't be able to stay hydrated, and you'd die. By delivering potassium to your skin cells topically, you facilitate the hydration process by encouraging those cells to draw extra moisture in from both internal and external sources. For more information, you can read our article about the Mineral Hydration Factorâ„¢.

So to hydrate and heal your nails and cuticles, simply massage a small amount of mineral hand cream into your cuticles a few times a day. Dry nails and cracked cuticles will be a thing of the past!

3. Avoid over-exposure to water

If your activities include things that keep your hands wet a lot - like gardening, house cleaning, or even prolonged spells in a chlorinated pool, you may find that you're susceptible to cracked and split nails. And if your feet stay damp and hot (very common in summertime AND in the winter when you may spend long hours in insulated boots), you need to be aware that this can set up a lovely little breeding ground for nail fungus. And if you thought brittle, cracked nails were fun, just try a little nail fungus!

The thing is, lots of time in water DOESN'T hydrate your skin (remember those prune fingers from your days as a bath-taking kid?). You need to make sure that you dry your hands and feet (and especially nails) very well after being wet, and then hydrate with a high quality mineral skin cream or foot balm. In fact our Dead Sea mineral foot balm contains peppermint oil and lemongrass oil, both of which are well-documented anti-fungal ingredients. In our experience, paying attention to just this one aspect of nail care eliminates almost half of the problems people have with cracked and split nails.

4. Healing from Nail Trauma

No, don't worry: we're not going to tell you to go to see a shrink for your nails! But trauma really is the right word: Long nails are exposed to all kinds of impact and abuse that short nails never have to deal with. The point is just that if your nails are long, you're at more risk for cracking and chipping. Let's just call it an "occupational hazard."

But trauma doesn't end there. In fact, the worst kind of nail trauma comes from the stuff we put on them. Well appointed nails are a lovely thing to behold, but unfortunately, most nail polishes contain toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde that can cause allergic reactions. And nail polish remover? Forget it - this is one of the more toxic substances available, containing documented carcinogens. And millions of women are putting it right onto their skin every day! Would you do that with turpentine? Gasoline? Didn't think so!

If your nails and cuticles are in bad shape from lots of harsh nail products, you're going to need some deep, sustained hydration over a period of weeks to months. And this can't happen if your nails are covered in polish. Try this: for two weeks, don't use any nail products, and hydrate several times a day using a high-quality concentrated mineral hand cream. After that, try using one of the many fine "healthier" nail polish removers made from corn or soy. They work well, and they won't destroy your poor nails and cuticles!

5. Stop Cutting your Cuticles!

The way that "nail professionals" care for cuticles is probably responsible for a lot of the "trauma" discussed above. We're supposed to clip them, trim them, and push them out of the way - as if they were a problem to avoid. The truth is, cuticles are there for a very good reason - like your gall bladder, or your nose. They're busy keeping your nails healthy by acting as a barrier against bacteria. Clipping them can actually lead to nail infections and nail loss. Instead, very gently push them back with a cuticle tool, then buff them lightly to remove any tears. And remember, keep them hydrated!