How to Spot and Treat Poor Nail Health in Your Client, Plus Our Top Pick Reparative Products

Jenna Lynch is a Sydney-based business owner, educator, and luxury manicurist. She shares her tips on how to spot and treat signs of poor nail health in your clients.

What is your role and the highest qualification you have attained:

I’m a nail artist. I have my certificate III in nail technology and have numerous other nail related certifications. I also have two bachelor’s degrees, however these are unrelated to the nail industry.”

What are some of the most common problems that can occur when our fingernails and toenails are in poor health? 

“Firstly, issues with our nails can cause significant discomfort because our nail plate and the skin around it is so delicate and sensitive. Considering we use our hands for everything, broken skin and paper thin nails can be quite debilitating in our day-to-day lives. Excessive damage to our nails from nail biting/picking, peeling gel enhancements off or the incorrect prep and/or removal of nail enhancements by a nail technician can lead to a whole host of issues. Extreme damage can make you more susceptible to developing allergies to nail enhancements like gel polish and can cause chronic issues such as onycholysis.”

Nail Technician, Jenna Lynch

Are signs of poor nail health always visible to the naked eye? 

“If your nails don’t have any product on them, assessing nail health is typically easy to establish just by looking at the nail. However, if you constantly wear nail enhancements and your nail technician is not correctly assessing the health of your nails at each appointment, then you can have issues with your nails hiding underneath the enhancement. 

For example, if you get lifting and bubbles under your gel and this is not taken care of properly, you can develop a bacterial pseudomonas (or ‘Greenie’) and not be aware of it lurking under the gel. You might not know you have any issue until the problem is quite advanced. 

Poor nail health typically presents with obvious discomfort and redness on the nail plate and/or the skin around the nails. Another indicator of poor nail health is when the nail plate is too flexible and bends like paper. This is because too many layers of the natural nail have been worn away from either picking nail enhancements off or from nail technicians incorrectly prepping the nail and being too aggressive with the removal of product. Paper thin nails can cause breaks and tears to the natural nail and significantly inhibits the structural integrity of the nail.”

Read about the top nail trends for the season, according to social media and web searches here.

What is the most common advice you would provide to clients that are suffering from weak/brittle nails?

“It really depends on just how weak the nails are. Extreme circumstances, it is not recommended to apply gel enhancements to very damaged nails. In this case, I recommend keeping the nails very short and applying cuticle oil multiple times a day. If they are in okay condition, a good nail technician can support a client on their journey to healthy and strong nails. 

I have a lot of success with ‘nail rehab’ with my clients by doing regular structural gel manicures every 3-4 weeks with builder gel (or BIAB). The biggest benefit of a builder gel manicure is that you can infill over existing product. This allows the thin and damaged nail to remain undisturbed underneath the existing product each time the client returns. So at each appointment, only the new nail growth is being gently prepped once before being covered with product. This is much more effective than other manicure services such as SNS or a traditional gel polish manicure (like Shellac Manicure) because traditional gel polish cannot be infilled and therefore must be totally removed at each appointment before new product can be applied. This causes unnecessary wear and tear during the removal and prep phase at every appointment.”

What topical ingredients work best to strengthen the nails? 

“Investing in a good quality cuticle oil is going to be essential for supporting your nails. Unfortunately, you can’t really strengthen already damaged nails as you can’t replace or ‘regrow’ layers of nail that have been peeled off or over-filed. Instead, it is more about supporting the new nail growth and ensuring that the new nail doesn’t get damaged. 

So while no topical ingredient is going to strengthen your nails, having structural gel/builder gel applied to weak nails can support your natural nail like a protective shield. There’s no ingredient in builder gel that makes your nails stronger – it is simply a more durable and supportive, protective layer than a traditional gel polish or Shellac.” 

True or false: once the nail plate is damaged, it’s impossible to return it to good health.

“Both! I say true because you cannot replace layers of the nail that have been peeled off or over-filed. You can only wait for new healthy nail growth to occur and in extreme cases, damage to the nail plate can be permanent. But, I also say false because nails are always growing and most of the time, nails will regrow normally despite previous damage.” 

What are three things we should be doing daily to assure the health of our nails?

  1. Cuticle oil, cuticle oil, cuticle oil! This is so important to ensure you keep your nail plate hydrated and the skin around your nails soft.
  2. Keep your nails at a length that is appropriate for your lifestyle. If you are very heavy-handed or work a lot with your hands, it may not be the best choice to have long nails. Choosing a rounded shape and short nails is typically a more durable option. This reduces the likelihood of bending and breaking your nails.
  3. Treat your nails like jewels, not tools. Avoid using your nails to open containers or peel off stickers. 

For more nail health tips and design inspiration, follow Jenna on Instagram here.

Editor’s Pick:

Natural Look Hand and Nail range
Contact Artav Australia on 1800 805 276

“I adore this collection of hand and nail care products by Natural Look. Efficacious, plant-based ingredients work to keep these delicate areas in good health, while omitting the most addictive botanical fragrances. Plus, they’re Australian made! I consider them all to be deskside essentials.”
– Hannah Gay, Professional Beauty Online and Special Projects Editor.

Restore overworked hands, feet and nails with these top tools

Photography by Brandee Meier. Words & Styling by Hannah Gay

Bio Sculpture Ethos Cuticle Oils in Rosehip, Jasmine and Blackcurrent
Contact Bio Beauty Concepts
Aesop Eleos Aromatique Hand Balm
Contact Aesop
Fedua Cuticle Remover Gel, Plastic Foot Rasp and File Foot 180
Contact The Beauty Embassy
Jessica Cosmetics Phenom Base Coat and Final Shine
Contact Masters Beauty International
By The Be. Hand and Cuticle Oils in Lumiere and Obscure
Contact By The Be.

Moor Spa Rejuvenating Hand Cream
Contact Encore Beauty
Natural Look Hand & Nail Softening Soak and Treatment Cream
Contact Artav Australia
Simplicite Nourishing Hand & Nail Creme
Contact Simplicite
OPI Pro Spa Nail & Cuticle Oil-To-Go, Refillable Corrector Pen and Brilliance Block File
Contact National Salon Supplies
Esmio Cuticle Softener, Roll On Cuticle Oil and Glass Cuticle Pusher
Contact Esmio Australia
SNS Vitamin Oil
Contact SNS
CND Nail Strengthener
Contact Pacific Nail and Beauty
BeautyPRO Acrylic Nipper 1/2 Jaw
Contact Dateline Imports

This photoshoot originally appears in the Winter 2024 print issue of Professional Beauty.

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