Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Back to Basics: Debunking Myths about Nails & Nail Polish

The shelf life of a nail polish is only a couple of years
This is the thing that always gets me! Many beauty blogs post that nail polish has a lifespan of a couple of years, and you should just toss it after. Well I was really puzzled when I heard this because it's directly the opposite answer of an often tossed-about question on the nail board at MUA. I decided to ask The Beauty Brains this question:

My question: All cosmetics have a lifespan (for example, I throw out my mascara every 3-4
months since I am afraid of bacteria) but what about the life span of a nail polish? I'm a huge nail polish junkie and some people say that a polish's lifespan is 1-2 years, but I know people who have had polish for up to 10 years without it going bad (ie, separating to the point of no return)! Is there something in the polish, chemically that could make it worse as the years go by? And what are, if any, the adverse side effects?
The answer they emailed back: Basically, you can keep nail polish until it dries out. That's because it's based on solvents (no water in it so it can't grow bacteria.) As long as you keep it tightly closed and well shaken it can last for a loooong time.

Mind you, this is taken verbatim from the e-mail, and if you don't believe me, I'll email you a screenshot. If you think about it, if there is no water in polish and bacteria can't grow, it's not sensible to throw out a polish after 1-2 years, especially if it's nearly full. Cosmetic companies make money off of repeating customers, thus, the more often you rebuy sometimes, the more money they make. For some things, sure, you're always going to need soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Of course, bad lip gloss (after two or three years) can cause bumps and rashes to form on your lips, and bad mascara (up to a year if you don't use it every day, but generally the rule is 3-5 months) could cause eye infections. But all of your old nail polishes aren't going to give you an infection or irritations. Many ladies on the nail board at MUA have polishes that are as old as I am and are still in perfect condition!

Of course, as with any of your other makeup, use your best judgment...if a polish has separated to the point where no matter how much you shake it's not going to mix, it's definitely time to toss it!

Also, don't believe the fools that say that nail polish lasts longer if you refrigerate it. First of all, do you really want your nail polish chemical smells mixing with your delicious leftover pasta? Not even all the baking soda in the world could absorb those smells! Besides, what if a bottle breaks in the fridge? Not only would the cold make it incredibly difficult to remove, you would ruin lots of food. Basically, polish and food shouldn't mix on a daily basis. Not to mention I would rather have more space in my fridge for food! As long as you don't expose your polish to lots of direct heat/flame, your polish will still last.

Lastly, this rule of nail polish lasting for decades doesn't apply to water-based polishes, because water is a breeding ground of bacteria. Not sure what the shelf life of a water-based polish is, but I would probably say at the most, 3-6 months, the same as mascara. To be honest, I don't think water-based polishes are a good investment. Yes they might dry faster but as an environmental sciences junkie, I know how much bacteria loves water...this is purely a personal preference though.

My polish is gloppy and thick, that means it's bad and I should toss it
Well now this is where my blog title comes in! A thick polish can be saved with a little thing called nail polish thinner. It can be found at Sally's Beauty, $3.99 for 118ml/4 oz (or $3.49 with a Sally's card); or, Long's Drugs and local beauty supplies may carry some too. Seche Vite also has their own brand of thinner. A little bit of thinner goes a long way and I think this should be a staple for anyone with more than 20 polishes. Just add a couple of drops to your nail polish and shake. Let the polish settle for a minute, then test the consistency on a piece of tape. You can always continue to add thinner, it's not a one-time only thing. And if you find that you've OVER thinned a polish, leave the cap slightly ajar and it will thicken with time. Do not add nail polish remover to a polish to thin it, removers generally contain water as an ingredient, which means possibility of bacteria! Not to mention it can ruin a polish. Stick to specifically nail polish thinners, a little goes a long way.

Now, another thing you can do to prevent polish from future thickening is adding ballz. What are ballz? Well, most nail polishes come with tiny metal balls. When you shake a bottle of nail polish (though technically you are supposed to roll them gently between your hands, I am impatient and I shake and then wait for a polish to settle before applying), the metal balls travel through the polish to keep it from becoming too thick. Of course, sometimes polishes with balls get thick, but generally the balls help all the chemicals in the polish mix together so that everything is consistent.

The amazing ladies at MUA discovered that BB gun balls could be used in polish bottles the same way. Make sure they are metal, preferably stainless steel. You can get them at any sporting goods store and even at some Walmarts.

the white dots on my nails are some type of fungus from wearing too much nail polish
I don't believe there is such a thing as too much nail polish. Ok, yeah the chemicals stink (always polish in well-ventilated areas!), and you should really ask your doctor if you can polish if you are pregnant, but nail polish cannot itself cause fungus. If you actually DO have fungus, yes, commonly an early symptom is a white or yellow dot under your fingertip. But please keep in mind that nail fungi causes nails to have crumbly, ragged edges and that it occurs most commonly in moist environments and therefore targets feet/toenails the most. This is also why you want your nails to be free of moisture before you polish, because polish can trap unwanted moisture against your nails. Source & follow-up reading: The Mayo Clinic: Nail Fungus

So if it's not fungus, what are those funky, unattractive white dots? Everyone gets them! It's a common problem with a fancy name, leukonychia. The most common cause of this problem is trauma inflicted at the base of your nail, where your nail is formed. However, this condition may also be hereditary as well. Leukonychia can be caused by picking at or biting your nails too. Since I'm fairly clumsy, I have my fair share of white dots. They're not like bruises that appear right after injury, so it's hard to pinpoint an exact form of injury caused to the nails. If you think you're a generally safe person and not prone to self-injury as I am, it may also be a zinc deficiency. Use your best judgment and add a multivitamin to your daily routine. If the white dot is at the very base of your nail, I'm so sorry to say that it will only disappear in 8 months, the time it takes for nails to full grow out. Sources and follow-up reading: WebMD: What are These White Spots?, Wikipedia: Leukonychia

Ok, so what's with these ridges on my nails???
There are two types of ridges, horizontal and vertical, and both can be rid of by gently buffing. Vertical ridges are normal, and they happen as your age. Horizontal ridges could be because of trauma (like leukonychia!), or they could be an indication of an underlying health problem. Now, don't start panicking just yet. As always, use your best judgment. If you have a family history of thyroid problems, consult your family doctor because it's better to be safe than sorry. One way to tell if your horizontal ridges should be a cause of concern is if they come back after buffing them out. If they don't come back, it's probably trauma, but if they reappear within a week to a month after buffing them out, consult Google, WebMD, The Mayo Clinic and a doctor.

My polish stained my nails, the polish must be bad and I need to stop wearing polish
There are many different reasons why your nails may be stained. Often UV rays act negatively with polish, causing discoloration on your nails, particularly if you're not using base coat. Another reason for the "Cheeto Dust Yellow" stained nails can be the polish itself. Darker colors will have heavier pigmentations that can leave a mark on your nails no matter which base coat you use, because of chemical reactions between the pigmentations (particularly blue), the base coat, and the nail itself. The bottom line? While sometimes you can't help the way nail polish stains your nails, there are many remedies for it.
  1. Leave your nails naked for a long time until the color fades. Well, it's a very old-school method, but the ideas below are more ideal for those who can't bear to part with their beloved polishes.
  2. always use a basecoat. Even though sometimes basecoats won't help, there are some good ones that that can lessen the damage. Sally's Beauty has a good selection of 'stain-blocking basecoats.' Barielle Camouflage and Nailtek II Foundation are two good ridge-fillers that also lessen the damage of staining.
  3. soaking your nails in lemon juice with some water will help. This is a natural cure that definitely works. It doesn't take out all the stains, but it definitely helps (soak no longer than 2-3 mins). Another natural remedy is vinegar
  4. soaking your nails in water with a couple of drops of bleach may also help. Like with lemon juice, soak no longer than 2-3 minutes...the best way is to dip an old toothbrush in the mix and scrub a bit on each nail. With this way you could also use a bit more bleach in your bleach/water mixture. But not too much! (I also hear that hydrogen peroxide works!)
  5. denture cleaner in water. Hey, don't knock it until you've tried it. And it helps if you have an older relative.
  6. "Bubble White," a product from Sally's works about the same way that denture cleaner does apparently. Bubble White is pretty helpful, but not a miracle worker
  7. buffing your nails can definitely rid your nail of the physical stain. Be forewarned though, over-buffing can make your nails too weak. I like those cheap buffers, the ones at the drugstores for like 99 cents or $1.99, with the instructions printed on them. Those buffers tend to be on the weaker side, so they are good at removing stains and ridges without thinning your nails too much.
Since nails are basically dead proteins I can always put polish on them.
Well, yes. You can always put polish on your nails, there is certainly no rule that says you can't. Nails can essentially "breathe" around polish. However, I'm generally inclined to believe that it wouldn't hurt to let your nails be naked once in a while. After all, we came into this world without polish on! Though imagine if we could....ok, I'm digressing. My point is, sometimes even with all the cuticle oil and hand lotions in the world, the routine of harsh chemicals like acetone can severely dry out your nails and especially the areas around your nails. Nails naturally have a balance of oils and moisture. In my opinion, a crucial step in having healthy nails is letting them be naked sometimes. So if it's a lazy Sunday and no one is going to see you nails, if you can stand it just take off your polish, kick back with a nice book and a refreshing drink, and just let your nails be nails! After all, nails can also be an indication of your health. On the TV show House, M.D. (awesome show by the way), there's an episode where House diagnoses a woman with scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency) after her toenail polish has been taken off and he notices discoloration. If you think that something about your nails isn't right, definitely consult your physician.

Well, I think I covered just about everything. Let me know if I've missed something and there'll be a part two!


Toenail fungus treatment said...

Nail polish is not only bad for the nails but for people with toenail fungus is definitely a no-no.

What-a-life said...

Wow, thank you so much for writing such an informative letter/blog filled with dues & don'ts, wills & won'ts pertaining to just about everything any polish user should know about nail polish! Even though it's about eight years old you're still helping people and for that I thank you!

What-a-life said...

Wow, thank you so much for writing such an informative letter/blog filled with dues & don'ts, wills & won'ts pertaining to just about everything any polish user should know about nail polish! Even though it's about eight years old you're still helping people and for that I thank you!

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