I received an email recently from Cristina (from the MUA nail boards) that made me realize I needed to add some information to the Formaldehyde based Nail Hardener post. Check that one out first if you haven't already. The concern in this email was about the safety of formaldehyde based hardeners as well as whether it was the right hardener to use.
Usually the amount of formaldehyde in these types of hardeners is 1-3% and they are ALL safe at this level. The only safety issue that I can foresee is allergy related, but at these low concentrations this is usually not a problem. It's a good idea, however, to avoid skin contact to prevent irritation. If you are allergic, so be it and avoid it altogether, before anaphylactic shock sets in ... yikes.
Since these hardeners are relatively safe, I think the next main concern is whether your nail condition needs this type of nail hardener.
Is Formaldehyde based hardener right for you:
Each person considering a nail hardener needs to evaluate the condition of their nails at the moment. Are your nails soft or hard? Thin or thick? Peeling or cracking? Once you know where you stand you can decide if "formaldehyde based" is suitable for you.
What do I mean by soft or hard?
Are your nails really pliable? When you push down on your nails free edge does it bend easily without much resistance or pretty solid? Check out the schematics to help you determine the answers:
What? You don't have blue fingers? hee hee, I just realized the blue after I made it and it took forever so you'll just have to accept it. Anyway, let's pretend this is a normal nail at rest.
If you can push down on your nails free edge and it bends easily without much resistance, like the green, they are probably soft. If they provide some resistance, like the red, they are hard. Of course you can have some variability and call it something in between. This is just a guide.
What do I mean by thin or thick?
Pretty self explanatory, I hope.
What do I mean by peeling or cracking?
This shows peeling. (thanks to google)
This is cracking.
I couldn't find a good picture of cracking so this schematic will also have to do. I hate cracks that happened horizontally below the free edge, big ouch. I will put a link here soon, about my preferred method of fixing such a catastrophe.
Formaldehyde based hardeners are best for soft, peeling thin nails. Your nail plate is made up of a protein called keratin. Keratin is fibrous and has naturally occurring cross linkages between the filaments. Formaldehyde reacts with the keratin in your nail plate and increases the cross linkages between these fibers. As a result, the nail plate becomes harder. These linkages prevent peeling by linking more of the nail plate layers together and makes the nail plate thicker (imagine how thicker those nails in that picture above would be if the nail plate was all fused together and not sloughing off).
There is nothing wrong with formaldehyde based hardeners, as I have already mentioned in the last post, but too many cross links in the keratin causes nail plate brittleness. Some brands have higher concentrations of formaldehyde than others (usually these are trade secrets) and overuse can cause brittleness; therefore, I generally suggest intermittent use of these types of treatments. That way you can get the desired hardness, then back off so the nail doesn't get too brittle.
If your nails are cracking this could be a sign that your nails are already hard (with plenty of cross linkages in the keratin) but lack flexibility. A formaldehyde based hardener may not be a good idea. Instead, a good moisturizer (oil/balms/butter/cuticle creams) needs to be used frequently throughout the day. A different type of treatment should probably be considered if moisturizing alone doesn't do the trick. More on that in a later post.
If you have thick nails I give you a high five. Nothing wrong with that, except make sure its not some underlying fungus condition. Otherwise, the only down side is more work filing.
If another combination describes your nails condition, for example: soft and dry (I would imagine this on thin problem nails), then another treatment or combination of treatments may be right for you. I will cover this in greater detail as I go through the different treatments in the series.
A few final words. Whichever treatment you choose, keep in mind that they all takes time to see results. The damaged nail plate has to grow out and the new treated nail plate will eventually surface. The nail plate may take a full six months to grow out from the cuticle to the nail tip.
I hope this addition is helpful to the series.
Edit: There is a difference between formaldehyde and formaldehyde resin. That post can be found here.
Next post : Protein Nail Treatments
The complete series:
Categories of Hardeners and Formaldehyde
Are Formaldehyde Hardeners right for you?
Protein Based Hardeners
Formaldehyde + Protein Based Hardeners
Formaldehyde or Protein Based Hardeners + Moisturizers
Fluoride Based Nil Treatments Part I
Fluoride Based Nail Treatments Part II
Dimethyl Urea Base Hardeners
Nail Conditioners Post or Video Review of DermaNail
Formaldehyde vs. Formaldehyde Resin