Thanks to an influx of pregnancy hormones, your nails may be growing faster than ever. But sometimes, that growth can be accompanied by brittleness, groove formation, or a separation of the nail from the nail bed called onycholysis. (You knew there had to be a downside, right?)
What you can do about nail changes
Eat a balanced diet and make sure your pregnancy vitamins contain biotin, which is a B-complex vitamin that has been shown to improve nail firmness, hardness and thickness. (Bonus: It also keeps your hair and skin healthy, too). And make sure you’re getting enough biotin in your diet from foods such as nuts, eggs, soybeans, mushrooms, peas, avocados, bananas, milk and whole grains.
What solutions are off-limits
Avoid solvent-based products (some polishes, acrylic nails, and some polish removers), which can be drying — and tend to smell bad, anyway. Check labels and skip products with acetone or formaldehyde whenever possible. And always watch out for fumes: Whether you’re at the salon or giving yourself a manicure, make sure the room is well ventilated. In nice weather, head outside for an alfresco paint job (nails will dry faster, too — plus you don’t have to risk dripping hot pink on your bathroom floor!).
What preventive steps you can take
- Don’t bite or pick at your nails. (Now’s a great time to break a bad habit.)
- Keep nails clean and dry. (Water makes nails soft, and soft nails break — another reason to limit your bath time.)
- Opt for short nails for a while. They’re less likely to snag and break (and they’ll make it easier for you to care for and caress your baby).
- Slather a good moisturizing cream onto your nails and cuticles at bedtime.
- Don rubber gloves when washing dishes and using household cleaners (or better still, have your partner do those chores for a while. Oh, honey…)
- Push back your cuticles gently, rather than cutting them. That way, your nails will stay stronger and you’ll be less likely to get an infection.
- Don’t dig out ingrown toenails (do you really want to anyway?). See a dermatologist if they get really gross or painful.
- To minimize your chances of infection, bring your own grooming implements to the nail salon; clean them well with alcohol before you use them again.
More smart strategies
- Gelatin capsules (safe during pregnancy) are tried and true nail strengtheners.
- Don’t saw back and forth when filing your nails — go in one direction only — and avoid snags by keeping the tips rounded rather than pointed.
- If you have artificial nails, beware of funky green discoloration — that’s a sign of a bacterial infection. Better yet, keep your nails real — and natural — while you’re expecting.