Perhaps you used to pride yourself on your long, strong talons or maybe never thought about your nails at all.
But recently, there’s been a change. Now, your nails are dry and flaky, and when they get a little longer, they bend. They feel flimsy, as though they’ve suddenly thinned overnight.
As we reach the perimenopause, hormone levels start to fall which causes all sorts of body parts to go a bit haywire – your nails being one of them.
Your nails are made from keratin, a hard protein. When we reach perimenopause and menopause our falling oestrogen levels weaken keratin, so nails aren’t as resilient.
Oestrogen also plays an important role in regulating how much water we retain. This means it’s easier to become dehydrated, which in turn can lead to flaky nails, headaches and changes in our skin.
Wondering how to strengthen your nails during menopause? Here’s our advice to help you toughen those talons and feel good about your hands again.
BUY A GOOD QUALITY HAND CREAM
Keeping your hands moisturised is the easiest way to improve the quality and strength of your nails.
Buy a good quality hand cream which contains vitamin E. This is because vitamin E supports cell renewal, enabling your skin and nails to repair themselves.
Pop a splodge on at regular intervals throughout the day, especially after washing your hands.
USE RUBBER GLOVES WHEN CLEANING
We’re sure most of you already do this but if you’re tempted to wash up those pans on the side without donning your Marigolds, think again.
Washing up liquid and other cleaning products are designed to cut through grease, removing both the leftover grime on your dishes and the natural oils in your skin and nails.
If you find you sweat in rubber gloves and get rashes from them, try a fleece-lined pair instead.
TREAT YOURSELF TO A MANI/PEDI
How better to find out what your nails need than speaking to an expert? Having someone take care of your cuticles, soak away rough skin and paint your paws a shiny, happy colour can do wonders for your confidence and the look of your nails.
Not to mention, if you’re struggling with other menopausal symptoms like irritability and mood swings, taking some ‘me time’ in the form of a mani/pedi probably isn’t a bad shout...
Staying hydrated is vital if you want healthy nails and skin. Make sure you drink at least two litres of water across your day and reduce your caffeine intake too. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it makes you pee more.
Swap regular tea and coffee for caffeine-free or fruit versions, and if you’re not keen on water buy some sugar-free squash to mix in.
When you do go to the loo, your pee should be almost free of colour and not smell strongly. The opposite is a sure sign you’ve not got enough of the good stuff in your system.
AVOID ACETONE POLISH REMOVER
Although acetone nail polish removers are really great at whipping off varnish quickly, they also take a load of moisture with them.
Don’t decide to pick it off instead, however tempting it is. Chipping off your polish, especially gel varieties, can bring the top layer of your nail off with it, making them more weak and brittle.
TRY A SKIN, HAIR AND NAILS SUPPLEMENT
As well as vitamin E, getting enough vitamin D and calcium can do wonders for brittle nails.
You can either up these nutrients via your lifestyle and diet, making sure you get 20-minutes out in the sun each day (no longer than that without suncream), and by eating dairy and plenty of green veg like broccoli.
If you’re worried you’re not getting enough nutrients through diet and lifestyle alone (or live in the UK so would be lucky to get 20-minutes of sun a month) you might want to try a skin, hair and nails supplement
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
It might seem like there’s nothing you can do to help her with a problem like brittle nails, but your help and support could actually make a big difference.
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
In terms of the steps they can take themselves, we’ve recommended that they buy a good quality hand cream and drinks plenty of water to keep their nails from drying out.
On top of this, we’ve also suggested they avoid using acetone nail varnish remover and wear rubber gloves during chores as harsh chemicals strip away moisture. A professional manicure can also do wonders for nail health, self-confidence and relaxation.
CREATE A WEEKLY MEAL PLAN
With brittle nails, it’s really important women get enough vitamin E. It’s found in dairy products and leafy greens like broccoli.
Planning meals ahead is a good way to get an overview of what you’re eating and manage weight too, while shopping for the ingredients together and sharing the cooking can take the pressure off. You could even sign up for a cookery class to learn some new culinary skills.
SUGGEST A SUPPLEMENT
Some people find a skin, hair and nails supplement improves the condition of their nails.
Why not gently ask if they have tried anything like that?
ASK THEM WHAT WILL HELP
Ask her exactly what you could do to help. Can you do more round the house if you live together? Brittle nails will likely get worse if she’s cooking and washing up every night, as will tackling the bathroom without a good pair of Marigolds.
Ask, rather than assume. If you do the latter, you may well find it has the opposite effect to the one you’d like.
FIND A NEW FOCUS
We can’t wish symptoms away, but it sure helps if we can find something nice to distract ourselves from them for a while.
Give yourselves and your relationship a new lease of life by finding something new to do together. Take their lead, they may not be up for learning to climb if they've got brittle nails, but they might always have wanted to learn photography or how to cook Thai food.
If you’re worried about nail changes, you should see your GP who can discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause.
If you'd like more information, we have put some further references below for you: