Something that I was blessed with is beautiful hands. Before you say that I'm bragging, there's no reason for me to get cocky about it because I had nothing to do with it. My mother has these hands. Her mother had these hands. I mean, they look so much like the both of them that sometimes, even while I'm typing, I tend to do a double take. Anyway, one of the things that I like so much about them is I've got long fingers and nails that grow really long, super fast. My main challenge is my nails have got such a curve to them that I'm constantly having to keep them clean, so that "gunk" doesn't lodge in them. But as far as having strong nails with lots of length, I'm good.
Other people in my world aren't able to say the same. Oftentimes, they will ask me what they can do because, no matter what, their nails are dry and brittle and/or constantly breaking and/or not really gaining the length that they would like for them to naturally have. If you're nodding your head up and down in agreement because this is what your nail struggle is like yet you want this year to be the one when you're using acrylic less and sporting your natural nails more, this lil' write-up can hopefully help to point you into the right direction.
The Basics About Your Nails, First.
It's kind of hard to give your nails what they need if you don't have a clear understanding of what they're comprised of. As far as what nails are made of, the interesting thing is, that they are comprised of the protein keratin; that's the same protein that your hair and the top layers of your skin (and organs) are made up of too.
The reason your nails have a pinkish color is that blood capillaries sit right underneath your nail bed (which is why if your nails look extremely pale, that could be a sign that you are low in iron or blood is not flowing as smoothly as it should). As far as growth goes, they tend to average 3 ½ millimeters a month (half that for toenails and men's nails grow faster). It's also important to keep in mind that just like the hair that you actually see is dead, so are the nails that come out of your nail bed (which is why you can cut both and it doesn't hurt when you do). The hand that you use the most tends to grow nails faster (because it's more active), nails grow faster in the summer than the winter season and things like genetics, your age and the state of your health all play a direct role in how your nails appear.
Already, off top, I'm hoping you caught that making sure you get enough keratin into your system is one way to get your nails to thrive. In fact, even though our bodies are comprised of so much of this particular protein, think about the last time you actually read an article listing foods with keratin. Today's your lucky day. Some of those include eggs, salmon, sweet potatoes, onions, mangoes, kale, and garlic. Consuming more of these can help to strengthen your nails (so that they break less often) while also increasing hair growth and speeding up the healing of any skin wounds that you might have.
What You Should Pay Close Attention to Concerning Your Nails
Now that we've broken down what makes our nails, well nails, how can you know when something is going on with your nails that might be hindering them from growing as long as you want? That's a really good question. I'm gonna touch on a few different things.
Again, your nails should have a natural pink tint to them. Some are a deeper pink hue than others. However, if your nails appear some shade of yellow, brown or green, that typically means that you've got some sort of fungal infection going on. It should also go on record that yellow nails could be an indication of an underlying health issue such as diabetes, psoriasis or your thyroid levels being off. If your nails have white spots, what that tend to indicate is that you injured them; the spots should go away with time. Also, don't ignore sudden black or brown stripes that may appear out of nowhere. While oftentimes, it's a sign of simple pigmentation issues and discoloration, it can also send a flag of the early stages of the cancer known as melanoma.
Stress can hinder nail growth. I promise you that if there's one thing I'm learning to let go of, more and more, it's anything or one that causes a consistent amount of stress in my life. My health doesn't need it and my nails can't afford it. Word on the (medical) street is stress is so bad for your nails that if can actually cause your nails to stop growing altogether. It's not worth it is. Get that stress outta of your life, ASAP.
There are certain curves that you need to pay attention to. Like I mentioned earlier, some of us have nails that come with a natural bend. However, if you notice that, all of a sudden, your nails appear concave (almost round like a spoon), it could mean that you've got a bit of an iron deficiency. Or, if they suddenly look up an upside-down spoon (the tips of your nails are super round), your nails may not be getting enough oxygen (which could be connected to lung or heart issues; it's worth making an appointment with your physician, just to know for sure).
Your nails shouldn't separate from your nail bed. While there isn't a super cause for alarm if you notice that your nails are separating from their nail bed, you should keep in mind that it could be an indication of psoriasis or hyperthyroidism. Small dents on the surface of your nails are usually a psoriasis sign too. If that is the case, treating the psoriasis itself can help your nails to get back on track.
Your nails can also be dehydrated. It really is kinda crazy that most of us know that we're made up of 60-65 percent water and yet, many of us aren't intentional about making sure we've got enough fluids in our system on a daily basis. And here's the thing about that—if your skin is dry, that usually means you are dehydrated on some level; it also means your nails are dry which can cause them to be dry and brittle. So definitely drink 6-8 glasses of water each day and also keep your hands and nails (including your cuticles) moisturized on the outside as well.
At-Home Remedies That Encourage Nail Growth
OK. So, we've touched on some red flags that you should pay close attention to when it comes to your nails' overall health. What if you're good in all of these areas and it still seems like you can't naturally create that almond, squoval or stiletto shape that you want? Here are a few other things to check off of your nail maintenance list.
Give your nails a break. Geeze. While I can't remember the last time I had some nail tips, I did used to get my nails powder-dipped on a pretty regular basis. When the pandemic hit, I stopped and, in hindsight, I'm glad that I did. Although my nails continued to grow with the dip, I didn't realize how weak my nails actually were until to took everything off. While some sort of overlay can be considered the "protective style" of nails, just like with hair, sometimes our nails need to breathe. No acrylic, powder or even color every few months can benefit your nails, more than you know.
Wash your dishes with gloves on. I'm pretty guilty of this one but nails that are constantly wet can become damaged over time. They get wet enough when you're bathing or showering, so if you plan on busting some suds, put some rubber gloves on. It will protect your nails in the long run.
Get some iron, calcium and biotin into your system. Remember how I said that the pink part of your nails shows how the blood is flowing to them? Something that keeps your blood healthy is iron, which is why it makes perfect sense that if your iron levels are low, your nails would be weaker than usual. Pure grape juice, dark leafy greens, beef, beans, dried fruit, molasses and peas are all foods that are loaded with iron. If you want something that will make your nails stronger, calcium can definitely help you out. Foods that are high in it include yogurt, salmon, orange juice, almonds, cheese, sunflower seeds and broccoli. One more nutrient that has your nails' back is biotin. It's awesome because it also can significantly reduce nail breakage. Foods that are packed with biotin include nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, bananas, avocados and walnuts (you can also take a supplement for these nutrients if you would prefer).
Massage your hands (and feet). Steady blood flow is always beneficial for any part of your body. Taking a little time to massage your hands and feet (maybe while watching a movie or listening to some music) can increase blood circulation and stimulate nail (including toenail) growth. As far as oils that are good for your nails, some of those include olive oil (it contains lots of antioxidants to protect your nails and cuticles); jojoba (it softens dry cuticles); lavender (it strengthens and soothes nails); almond (its nutrients coat your nail bed); thyme (it contains anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties to keep your nails healthy) and, if you've got a bit of a fungal infection, clove and tea tree oil are both excellent at helping to clear those up.
Round your nails out. As I'm typing all of this out, my nails actually have a square shape to them. Still, if you want to reduce your chances of your nails breaking, it's better to give them a round shape instead. For some reason, that's the ones that typically results in less peeling or breakage.
Keep them shaped up with crystal (glass). Wanna know something that will send your nails to hell and back? A traditional emery board. They are just too harsh. What's the alternative? Ever since I've switched over to a crystal glass nail file, I can see a real difference. It's way gentler on my nails, it shapes my nails much easier and, as bonuses, they are super hygienic and last much longer than emery boards do. Stylecraze offered up a list of some of the best that are currently on the market. You can check them out by going here.
Go without acetone. Just like parabens (for the most part) suck when it comes to being a drying ingredient in your shampoo, acetone zaps most of the moisture out of your nails as well. So, when you are rocking polish and you're ready to remove it, go with something gentler—an acetone-free polish remover. Those are pretty easy to find at your local beauty supply or even grocery store.
Take the DIY route. One more for the road. Hopefully you already know that growing out your nails requires patience and some constant TLC. Well, if you want to provide your nails with some extra nutrients, how about giving them a mask? Real talk. A very easy nail strengthening mask consists of two tablespoons of shea butter (shea butter is loaded with vitamins), one teaspoon of avocado oil (it fights fungus and encourages nail growth) and three drops of rose oil (it nourishes your nails). Combine all of the ingredients, apply them to your hands and nails, cover your hands with some socks for 30 minutes, and then rinse the excess off in cool water. If you do this once a week, your hands will be unbelievably soft and your nails will get even stronger—and longer in no time. Good luck on your nail journey!
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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