Sidestepping Side Effects – Brittle Nails

IMG_5533_2Both of the courses of chemotherapy I have had, Adriamycin and Cytoxan followed by Taxol, Herceptin, and Perjeta, have listed brittle nails as a side effect. It may have been the pregnancy nails hanging in there post partum for the first few months or maybe the now change to cooler dryer weather, but the T/H/P really has done a number on my nails. One thing I have found to help, is keeping them polished all the time. At one of the oncology appointments my doctor specifically asked about my nails. Some people have a really rough experience and lose nails, they discolor, and so on. So far, so good. I explained, yes they were a mess and broke very easily, but as long as I kept them polished they were fine. Even I had to smile, because really, tough life I have, right?! He snickered and said, “hey, whatever works!” This has also been a way for me to carve out some time to pamper myself and zone out on some guilty pleasure television (Real Housewives of Anyplace, anyone?).

For many reasons, I am never big on nail salons. I will very infrequently go for a pedicure, but manicures always seem like a huge waste of money to me and they never last on my nails. This is pretty funny if you know me, because That Guy does the dishes so really there is no reason my nails are beat up any more than the next girl’s. I just don’t have great luck with manicures unless I go somewhere very posh and that just isn’t practical to do every week or more. Plus the horror stories of germs and recycled water and unclean tools. Anyway, I do them myself.

Obviously, your skin and nails take in a lot of what you put on them. Part of what I have started to be much more aware of is not only what I put in my mouth, but what I put on my body. You always hear your skin is your largest organ so all those lotions, shampoos, and so on make a different. The whole process has been very frustrating. At some point I hope to detail some of the other changes I have made and why, but for now, I’m starting with an easy one. In the meantime, Environmental Working Group has an easy to use app, called Skin Deep, that rates beauty products for Cancer, Developmental/Reproductive Toxicity, and Allergy. Another app called Think Dirty allows you to build your medicine cabinet and see how you are doing and even suggests alternative products. When you get into some of the facial cleansers, lotions, and shampoos, it can get a little frustrating so be warned!

I have had a long love affair of doing my own nails and was doing nail art long before it was cool thanks to an awesome older friend/babysitter. Since then, I have always had a fantastic stash of polishes. Well, they are pretty much all up for grabs as I have sworn them off and switched to more chemical free polishes. When That Little Girl was just getting old enough to paint her nails I had read about Piggy Paint. Their slogan is that it is as “natural as mud”. I had never really given it much thought, but back then I had purchased a bottle of Butter London polish for myself. I remember thinking that if I was going to take better care of her than myself, well, something just wasn’t quite right with that. I should want to show her, not just tell her, how to treat her body.

My first experience with Butter London was not a good one. It chipped off the very first day and just didn’t go on right. This was probably three years ago and I was willing to try again. My first thought was to buy their base coat and top coat to see if that solved my problems. I know I have been told somewhere over the years that makeup, nail polish, cleansers, and things like that are sometimes truly meant and formulated to be used together to perform optimally. And obviously now that I am seeking out the benefits of the 3 or 5-free products, these would be free of those chemicals, as well. Well, unfortunately for my wallet, I am now obsessed. I use the Nail Foundation Flawless Base Coat, which honestly could be used alone, and the Hardwear P.D. Quick Top Coat specifically. I have built a nice little collection at this point. I am a big fan of Yummy Mummy and All Hail the Queen. I have tended to wear their neutrals this fall, some matte and some metallic, more than their colors. My favorite color has been Macbeth, an orangey coral. I also have a few ready for Santa to fill my stocking, if I can wait that long, so my favorites will likely change!

To explain just how good these are, and just how awful my nails have become I want to tell you a couple of examples of how they have held my nails together. As soon as my nails chip on the tips, my nails tear or just literal pieces break off. A few weeks ago one of my nails tore really far down. I have been wearing a band aid on it since it easily gets caught on just about everything during the day. However, the first few days after I do my nails, the lacquer was acting like a glue and it was not until something would get caught that it would even break apart. So it was really extra protection.

This is just one change that I have made and the product I have found. There are other vegan and 5-free polishes widely available. When I looked into it, Zoya and RGB were also quite popular, but I have not yet tried them. If you have, let me know!



  1. I switched to Butter when pregnant with #1, and I agree that you need the top and base coat too. And I have germaphobia about nail salons!

    Liked by 1 person


  1. […] I have a surgery that requires me to not wear nail polish so it will be interesting to see how my nails hold up for even a short time without anything on them. Right before Christmas, I did my nails with a single coat glitter polish over a single coat of a similar neutral polish in an effort to make the removal a bit easier and more gentle on my nails. At my pre-surgery appointment, my surgeon warned me that while she also has used Butter glitter polish (on her toes because surgery all the time) when she’s gone to nail salons, as with any brand’s glitter polish, they are quite difficult to remove. I didn’t have too much of a problem removing two coats of just glitter, but it was more difficult than a typical polish. Hoping my plan works and my nails are not too bad while they are left naked! See my thoughts on brittle nails during chemotherapy and why I switched my nail polish here. […]


  2. […] As I finish up with radiation, I am finding my nails are getting pretty awful again. I have had a ridge in them that is either a result of the SVC syndrome blood clots (someone suggested my hands were so swollen it pinched the nails beds) or the chemo drugs making them noticeably thinner. Either way, they are ripping low as that ridge grows out! And these ripped nails are getting caught on everything and every little one I touch. Must mean it is time to get a new spring color in my favorite polish, right? Check out the last time I talked about this Brittle Nail Side Effect here. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: