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So you want hard, healthy nails capable of carving the facets in diamonds. Liquid gelatin may seem like the quick and dirty solution if you don't favor food that wobbles, shivers and tries to escape the spoon. Gelatin has received a lot of love from women who've drank it, eaten it and popped gelatin capsules hoping to grow longer, sturdier fingernails. But don't pick up the cup just yet -- this beauty trick is nothing more than beauty myth.
Behind the Beauty Myth
Gelatin has a fascinating history that explains why it's still so popular as a nail aid. Charles Knox and his wife created the first powdered gelatin back in 1890 with an eye to introducing it into cooking. Gelatin is made from slaughterhouse undesirables -- the hooves of cows, as well as the hide, feet and bones. Knox was a savvy marketer and knew how to appeal to the sensibilities of the gentler sex. Ladies were easily convinced that gelatin made brittle, peeling nails stronger and healthier -- as sturdy as the animal hooves from which it came.
Diet and Nails
Gelatin does contain some protein, an important component of a healthy diet. However, gelatin won't give you harder nails, no matter how much of the stuff you gulp. Nor will soaking your fingernails in liquid gelatin work either. Unless your diet is extremely poor, it's unlikely that your nails will bear the brunt of what you don't put in your mouth. Flavored liquid gelatin drinks are still available today, courtesy of Knox's grandson, who expanded the original range of gelatin products to include those that emphasize nail care.
Other Tall Nail Tales
Now that you've ditched the gelatin, sort through more fingernail myths. Some women are big believers in taking extra calcium -- another supplement that won't give you harder, healthier nails. The most unfortunate truth about nails is that they're made of dead skin cells; nothing you can eat, paint on or rub in can restore damage that's already been done. The only dietary supplement that might give you sturdier nails is a 2.5 mg dose of biotin, taken daily. But the best way to encourage healthier growth is to treat your fingernails gently and protect them from repeated exposure to water and chemicals.
TLC for Nails
For healthier nails, start with your own prevention plan. Wear rubber gloves when you do "wet" chores like scrubbing toilets and washing dishes. This also protects your nails from damaging chemicals. Rub moisturizer into your nails and cuticles a few times a day, particularly if your hands have been in water. Trim and file your fingernails regularly. Every-other-day nail polish changes have to go -- pick one color and commit to it for one week, touching up chipped areas if you need to. Or you can just use a formaldehyde-free clear coat. When you need to remove the old stuff, use acetone-free nail polish remover.