by Shelli of Hairscapades
Last year around this time, I was heading to NYCC and suddenly noticed that my nails were all about a half-inch long!! If you knew my nail history, you’d be as shocked as I was! You see, although I’ve never had a problem with achieving relatively long hair, I could never “grow” long nails, especially on all ten digits at the same time (I’ve always had this theory that the keratin strength either goes to your hair or your nails, rarely both!). I’ve never had the patience for manicures, nail treatments or tips, especially given the need to regularly maintain them. On the rare occasions that I did get a mani, no matter how long I seemed to wait for my nails to dry, I always smudged and/or chipped one (or several) within hours of leaving the salon.
So, I was ecstatic last Spring when I learned of this new Opi nail lacquer which would be completely dry within minutes and would last for two weeks with a nearly chip proof finish! I proceeded to get my nails done every four weeks (because it lasted that long) for several months. And, my nails grew! But then, the side effects began to manifest. The removal process, which involved heavy-duty chemical solvents and a “chisel,” eventually damaged my nails so badly that one thumbnail looked like a shattered windshield! For months, my nails would bend backwards when I attempted to do anything and the tips would just peel away.
Now, you can understand my surprise when I realized in October that my bare nails were … dare I say it … long, healthy and strong. Super long? No. Super hard? Again, no. But, they were really long for me … so long that I had problems removing my contacts (TMI? lol). I started thinking about what could possibly be the cause of this and it struck me that I’d been using henna religiously for months, sometimes weekly. My nails would often be tinted slightly orange for a week or so after a treatment. Given that nails and hair share the same basic component, keratin, and that henna works it strengthening magic on hair by binding to that component, it stood to reason it could do the same for nails. So, I began to research henna for nail strength and found this:
Henna can be used to add strength to nails because it contains a resinous substance that adheres to the surface of the nails. This provides protection from splits, chips and tears. Simply combine one tablespoon of natural colored henna with one and a half tablespoons of water. With a knife or spatula coat each nail in the mix for around five minutes before rinsing off. Only use once a month to prevent a build up of resin.
I then found this post on ehow.com, which provides step by step instructions on How to Make a Nail Strengthening Treatment from henna. Both of these posts reference neutral/natural colored henna, which isn’t henna at all. Rather, it is cassia obovata as many of us on the natural hair circuit know;). However, both my sister and I experienced improved nail health via the rinsing process while doing regular (weekly/bi-weekly) treatments with real henna! As cassia can be difficult to come by on the ground, you may choose to try a BAQ henna “rinse” instead. If you don’t mind a slight orange tint for a few days, simply allow your nails to soak in dye released henna water for a few minutes and rinse. Another option is to mix a henna paste and apply it immediately, prior to dye release, and again rinse after a few minutes. However, I would expect that the strengthening of the latter technique is less than the former as the dye molecule in henna is what binds to keratin and, I assume, provides the most plant resin.
If you are not feeling orange nails (hey, it’s October, they’d be great for Halloween;), you probably do want to go with cassia. I’ve experimented with the Light Mountain Hair Color & Conditioner, Neutral as it contains cassia and I could find it on the ground at Whole Foods. The ingredients are listed as cassia auriculata leaf and lawsonia inermis leaf powder and not cassia obovata though. It seems to work okay, but not as well as good, old-fashioned henna.
Regardless of which option you choose, if you are in search of a nail strengthening product, BAQ henna is an effective, 100% natural, quick and easy alternative to expensive, chemical-laden and/or time intensive commercial treatments. It could be just what the nail doctor ordered!
Have you experienced improved nail strength and increased length since using henna?
The summer of 2010 I was doing cassia and shikakai hair treatments, bare-handed, every two weeks. Later, in pictures, I realized how ridiculously long and strong my usually weak and flimsy nails had become. At first I attributed this to the increased nail maintenance that I had also started around the same time. But as I continued the nail maintenance and continued to experiment with other natural hair treatments, my nails gradually faded back into their usual weak state. I am now a believer that the cassia strenghthened both my roots and nails phenomenally, and am going to get back on that crazily all-natual and dirt-cheap regimen. I'm convinced it was side-effects from applying and rinsing the cassia to and from my hair, and I do recall the said resin build-up as well, lol Thanks!
Anon. @ 11:45, how is it used as a skin treatment? I've used amla as a facial and that's when I realized my skin no likey. But, never heard of henna used as such.
Anon @ 1:39, those are actually my sister's nails:)! I put that in the caption in the post on my site, but it didn't carry over in the re-post here. I never got a pic of my nails when I was using henna very regularly. But, my sister started using it this year and seemed to be doing a henna hair treatment every week or couple of weeks. So, she posts this pic of her nails on FB, saying that it'll never happen again them being so long and all even. It was at that point that I told her the likely reason behind the "phenomena." She's a believer now too:)! Neither of us really do a henna specifically for our nails. We just get the benefit via our hair henna treatments!
Anon @ 1:39. Yes, but I'm assuming that it very minimal henna given it's position on the ingredient list and the fact that this henna has no color, hence it being labeled a neutral henna. I was more pointing out that it wasn't the same cassia obavata that is sold on mehandi.com.
Anon @ 7:44, I've never had that problem! Glad you found a way to work around it so that you could get the hair benefits of henna!
Anon. @ 12:26, awesome, isn't it?!?! that's exactly how it happened to me:)!
I used henna about 3 weeks ago and I got that orange tint for about a week. I was actually looking at my nails today wondering when they were going to break (they look amazing, I notice people checking them on the train)and then I saw this post. They are definitely longer and stronger, ridiculously so… and it was by accident!
Ok I'm totally in love with henna and all that it does but like Nikki I tend to get a lil stuffy or head cold the day of application. I start sneezing the minute I open the package. So what I do now is wear a scarf to cover my nose and mouth when I am mixing my batch. Yes, it may look weird but worth it. This help to keep me from inhaling the powder while I mix. Once its wet and time to apply I can remove the scarf and apply. That's it no sneezing or head cold or stuffiness!!! Try it next time.
"lawsonia inermis" IS henna
How long have you been using henna on your nails to get those results? That's amazing growth and they look hard! I've been using gel polish as well and just stopped because they were damaging my nails, unfortunately they're weak now. Do tell because at this point, I'll use anything. Thanks in advance for any more tips ladies.
I began using henna on my nails after my friend's wedding (she's Deshi so the whole bridal party got the traditional henna designs drawn on our hands and feet) it is amazing as a skin treatment and work friendly.