February 7, 2013: I later had some success with vitamin D3.
Updated February 6, 2012
Growing up I’d watch movies set in the heyday of the manicure, the 1930s to the 1950s, and then I’d look down at my own bendy, shallow, round nails and I’d think, whyyyyy? When I got my first full-time job I splurged on French-manicured, squoval artificial nails and enjoyed them thoroughly despite being laughed at by the guy giving me riding lessons. Eventually the cost of filling them every three weeks got to be too much, so I abandoned the habit. I’d bet those nail salon chemicals are still in my system, plotting their oncological revenge.
Going gluten-free brought me no nail improvement. Over the years I did notice some of the classic nutritional correlations: vertical ridges when iron levels are low and hangnails when zinc is low. I can’t comment on the whole white-spots-is-a-zinc-deficiency thing, though. I just don’t remember.
As for strength and length, all the following helped a little, but nothing major:
— sufficient protein intake
— horsetail (silica)
My fingernails were actually pretty healthy, all things considered, until about two years ago when they started peeling from the top, shredding, and then ripping horizontally under the quick. Betaine hydrochloride took care of the first two and a ton of calcium the last.
I recently had a huge transformation but unfortunately it didn’t last. I was trying two things at the same time: Nailtiques “2 plus” nail strengthener polish from the drugstore, and methylfolate.
I was taking 8 mg of methylfolate — yes, that’s 10 800 mcg tablets. As in, a lot. When I first heard that some people might have more luck with this newish type of folate I tried it, and when 4 mg improved my concentration I just kept going. At 8 mg my concentration was amazingly better. Then I looked down at my nails and they were like another person’s. Unfortunately after several days my histamine rose to zombie levels, a tendency of folate I was hitherto unaware of, and that was the end of that. (Note 2/6/12: I’m not sure that last bit is right. In theory the methylfolate shouldn’t do that, so perhaps the zombieism was caused by something else — an induced deficiency of a folate cofactor, maybe. Not sure. Note 9/20/12: Best guess is that all that folate lowered my vitamin C levels, which for me raises histamine.)
I kept going with the Nailtiques. My nails didn’t look quite as good after the folate ended but it was still a lot better than the usual. Sadly, eventually my nails turned yellow enough to show through the pale polishes I wear. (The stupidity of stupid fingernails is only accentuated by dark polish.) It looked creepy so I quit. In theory a toluene/DBP/formaldehyde-free product would avoid this, but I’ve tried a lot of them and they didn’t do much. Nailtiques is definitely NOT carcinogen-free.
It has been pointed out to me that no matter how strong fingernails are, if they are too shallow and too wide they just won’t have the structural integrity to shoot out very far past the fingertip in Rihanna-like talons. So what I really have is a nail BED problem. Maybe there’s an unethical Brazilian plastic surgeon out there who can help me.