Pointers for fancy fingers

TRACEY STRANGE
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2013

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Nails are currently the hottest fashion accessory on the planet - bigger than a Louis Vuitton bag, sharper than a Zanotti stiletto.

For what seems like decades, we've shunned long talons in favour of short and rounded, perfectly natural-looking 'squovals' ready for their polish, whether that be moody black or neutral pink.

But then came along Beyonce, Rihanna and Adele, all sporting the new look for nails - long, pointy and very flashy. (Gaga, of course, has been rocking spiked nails for years, but she's in a category entirely of her own.)

Extremely glamorous, pointy nails do have one big disadvantage: they are extremely high maintenance.

If you're keen on showy nails you need to spend a bit of time making sure the raw materials are up to the job. Here's how:

FIRST THE CAUSE: Nails are actually more sensitive to your overall health than you might imagine.

Discolouring, brittleness and ridges can be related to serious medical concerns - heart disease or hepatitis, for example.

Problems can also be caused by fungal infections, bruising and an adverse reaction to a nail varnish. Or you might just be getting older; abnormalities such as flaking and weakness are part of the normal ageing process. Take into account all of the above before deciding on a treatment plan.

THEN THE CURE: There's still debate as to whether brittle nails result from a lack of moisture or a lack of protein, but either way you could benefit from a basic multivitamin. Biotin, a B vitamin often cited for nail health, mainly because it works wonders on horses' hooves, can also be found in supplement form.

If you want foods that contain it, try eating more bananas, oatmeal, mushrooms, peanuts and soy. Horsetail, the herb, is also often recommended.

Just as dry skin can crack, so too can nails. Regular use of moisturisers containing ingredients like vitamin E, shea butter and avocado oil will help, as will cuticle oils.

Weak nails can be strengthened by specialist nail products - Orly, Leighton Denny, OPI and Essie all do great fix-its for everything from discoloured nails to flaky ones.

SHADES OF GREAT

"Your life," said the man I live with, "is so shallow and meaningless."

My first thought? Some of his statement would at least make a great name for a nail polish.

Colour me superficial, but I think being driven to a mystery location for a luxurious manicure based on the results of an email survey (sample question: what is your stylenomics philosophy?) is a great way to kill two hours on a Wednesday.

The cold, hard, multi-coloured fact is fresh nail polish is one of the quickest ways to happy I know, and the relaunch of a cult brand on our shores is worth talking about.

The back story goes something like this: In 1981, New Yorker Essie Weingarten creates an eponymously named polish in 12 colours.

Joan Rivers wears 'Jelly Apple' on telly. America goes mental. Today, the Queen wears 'Ballet Slippers', Kate Middleton gets married in 'Allure' and Lady Gaga's meat dress is complimented with 'Merino Cool'.

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At its heart, Essie is a collection of 100 nail polish colours. Seasonal releases supplement the offering, with the most popular going on to replace the least popular from the core collection (selling hard in the US right now, a power purple-green metallic 'For the Twill of It').

Since inception, the brand has released more than 2000 shades. Originally confined to salon use, its acquisition by the L'Oreal Group three years ago now means a presence in 199 countries, an expansion of the brand's care products (10 in total, including lengtheners, hardeners and a cuticle oil) and a thicker formula with a wider paddle brush for easier use at home.

"I am a colourholic," says the brand's founder. According to Weingarten, women remember the names of the Essie polishes they wear because they form a personal attachment "and it makes them feel good".

Colour me 'Lilacism'. Turns out a playful stylenomic means I'm typing this story with nails the colour of pastel lavender and certain sweet peas. Every time I bash the keyboard the sight of them makes me smile. - Kim Knight

- Sunday Star Times

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