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Split ends and broken, brittle nails can ruin the look of a designer haircut or a manicure in seconds, transforming your look from Uptown Girl to Bag Lady. You might be willing to do almost anything to boost your hair and nail health, including quaffing the large amounts of unflavored gelatin recommended by your grandma. Unfortunately, gelatin and other dietary fixes won't fix your hair and nail woes. By changing your beauty routine and adapting some of your daily habits, you can improve your nail and hair health -- without having to eat anything yucky or tasteless.
The Scoop on Gelatin
You might be most familiar with gelatin from your days of eating rainbow-colored, super-sweet flavored gelatin desserts when you were just a wee thing. Unflavored gelatin bears little resemblance to this dessert, since it lacks both color and flavorings (and taste!). Although you might guess that the odd, wiggly food is made of space-age chemicals, it actually consists of something far more, um, natural. Gelatin -- and this is why you might refuse to eat it ever again -- is a clear, powdered substance made of the boiled skin, tendons and bones of animals.
Why Do People Keep Recommending Gelatin for Stronger Nails?
The magic nail and hair-strengthening powers attributed to gelatin came from a clever advertising ploy by the Knox Company, according to Harvard-trained physician Dr. Gabe Mirkin. Mirkin asserts that when Charles and Rose Knox decided to sell dried, powdered gelatin in the 1890s, they boasted that the product contained protein, which could give you strong nails. Since gelatin is made of cow hooves and bones -- and cow's hooves are strong -- many people believed the claim.
Does It Work?
Gelatin does contain some protein, but a lack of protein isn't what is making your nails crack and split. Your brittle nails are probably due to a combination of internal and external factors, such as genetics (thanks mama!), aging and exposure to harsh irritants or dry, winter weather. In other words, you could eat unflavored gelatin all day, every day, and it would not give you stronger nails -- or hair.
Gelatin-Free Tips for Stronger Hair and Nails
Don't despair. You can still look stylish and well-groomed. The key to longer, stronger nails is moisture. Apply moisturizer to your nails and cuticles several times a day, especially after exposing them to water. When you have to clean house, channel your inner June Cleaver and wear plastic gloves to avoid exposing your nails to irritating cleansers and solvents. To reduce split ends and improve the condition of your hair, use conditioner regularly. If your hair and nails still need help, try the nutritional supplement biotin, which MayoClinic.com suggests might improve nail and hair health.