Now, I love nail fungus and athlete's foot spores. But *breathes in* ...a change is as good as a rest.
So today we head north. From your toenails to your fingernails.
To be more precise: fingernail damage from shellac and how you can heal it.
(We also cover beauty barons, toenail pies and fun fingers)
Fingernail Damage (From Shellac)
Bendy nails. White dots. Peeling nails.
Shellac nail damage is common — and why wouldn't it be?
The process wounds your fingernails. It then seals them shut so they can't heal.
After all, shellac was invented for something far stronger than fingernails.
(Like how superglue was first used to patch up wounded soldiers in Vietnam)
From Dentist to Beauty Therapist
Almost unbelievably, the story behind shellac nails is quite interesting.
Back in 1978, there was a dentist called Dr. Stuart Nordstrom.
One day (probably during the post-treatment cigarette) a patient remarked something to Nordstrom.
Something that pricked the doc's ears up.
They said that the material for tooth crowns had the same heady aroma as porcelain nails.
King of The Nail Bars
Dr Nordstrom couldn't sleep that night; he tossed and turned.
He knew there was a way.
A way to use fake teeth material to give you teak-tough fake fingernails.
Thus, shellac was born and Dr Nordstrom became the Sir Issac Newton of beauty bars.
Then, of course, came an army of copycats.
Shellac, Gel, Gellac, etc. Turned out there was a lot of dough in nail treatments.
All the big brands wanted a slice of that nail money pie — and still do.
Lab nerds in white coats were instructed to make their version of shellac.
"Ours has a better removal process/is more durable" etc.
No matter what they all say, the skinny is: all shellac-type treatments can damage your nails.
The only difference is the type of effect it has on your toenails and fingernails.
Fun With Fingers
Fingernails are fun compared to toenails.
They seldom ingrow. They never get thick. They're fungus-proof.
This means the signs of shellac fingernail damage are less dramatic (than on your toes).
In other words: it's far easier to repair gel-ravaged fingernails compared to toenails.
But the degradation still happens.
Why You've Got Shellac Fingernail Damage
So, why exactly has this deterioration happened in the first place?
Let's have a wee gander (as Scottish people say)
The first (and arguably worst cause) is the file down.
Or shall we say — vigorous hand action.
This sanding damages at least one of your nail layers. Some nail techs use a hand file, others a mechanical burr.
(The latter is usually far worse)
After the sanding comes the licked-on base coat. This locks in the rasping trauma.
Now compared to toenails, shellac gel applied to your fingernails is thinner.
(This means it suffocates less)
But this dab of dyed glue still drowns your nail and clogs up all the micro holes left by the first file.
Then we have that entirely natural process of shoving your hands under a UV-light box.
Yep, shellac fingernail treatments are so organic they need an industrial-style curing process.
This seals and bakes in everything that's happened prior.
It also makes them dent-free, chip-free and air-free.
Oh, these nail gels are chip resistant alright.
The filing and the burning all stay slammed shut under. For weeks.
To take the gel off, you need a chemical bath, like a sheep-dip for your fingers.
The combo of the steps above lead to some distinctive symptoms...
Shellac Fingernail Damage Symptoms
1. Wet 'n' Weak: Bendy Fingernails
Weeks of sitting under leeching superglue turn your fingernails pliable.
They bend like strips of Post-It notes on the ends of your fingers.
This happens when all those lovely solvents have nowhere to go. Apart from stay in your nail layers, that is.
2. Pitted and Dotted: Chalky Spots and Lines
Your fingernails look as if you've got a calcium deficiency.
There's little milky white streaks and dots in places they shouldn't be.
This untrendy shade stems from those tiny pits and holes caused by filing.
3. Sheet Street: Fingernail Rips
Your fingernails peel and rip in strips.
This stems from a separation in the layers that make up your fingernail.
(Usually, this happens when you do little things, like I dunno, catch it in a car door)
4. Lift and Shift: Fingernail Collapse
Ok, so this is end-stage and pretty rare.
It tends to happen to those who pile on treatment after treatment, year after year.
In the end, all the suffocating and malnourishment wins.
Your fingernails tap out, like a battered cage-fighter who needs hospital treatment.
What About Fungal Fingernails?
Fungal nail infections aren't fun.
The good news is it's not common in your fingernails. At all.
This is because fungal nail infections come from athlete's foot spores. Your hands aren't prone to this red, itchy condition.
(Unless you walk everywhere on your hands like that girl from The Exorcist)
How to Repair Shellac Fingernail Damage
So, what's the best way to repair shellac fingernail damage?
It's easy, cheap and exactly the same as for toenails.
Rest and re-nourishment.
A woman goes to her doctor: "Doctor, it hurts when I do this".
Doctor replies: "Well, don't do that".
Gel nail treatments are addictive. I get that.
When I say addictive, I mean that they're part of a routine. You take one off, you put one on. Rinse and repeat.
But try to take a few weeks' break between applications now and again.
(If you notice the tell-tale milky white dots and streaks, then don't try. DO)
Renourishing Your Fingernails
After you've left your fingernails literally get air for a few days, start the process of rehydration.
Remember what shellac fingernail damage is? It's a scoured nail plate starved of air and (good) moisture.
Be careful what products you introduce to your fingernails in rehab.
(Do not use Tea Tree Oil! It's a form of mild bleach and way too harsh)
Only use gentle, soothing lacquers. I use Gehwol Nail Care on my patients.
One Last Thing: Avoid The Finger-Burn Merchants
That initial rough-up of your fingernails plays a big part in how much damage happens.
Try and veer away from finger burn merchants. Avoid nail bars or therapists that use harsh mechanical files.
Fingernail Damage From Shellac
Fingernail damage from shellac is far more forgiving than on your toenails.
In most cases, even the gnarliest nails look night and day better after easy TLC.
As boring as it is to say, the important thing is to not ignore the warning signs.
(I know some of you do. You live fast and dangerous)
See little milky flecks? The bendy nails a little too flexi? Take a shellac gel sabbatical and feed your thirsty nails.