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Ask The Makeup Diva
Welcome to Ask The Makeup Diva™! Our resident expert, The Makeup Diva, answers makeup and skin care questions sent in by readers just like you.

Q: For months I have had problems with my nails; they are dry and brittle with ridges, and the skin around my nails is dry and hard. I have tried countless nail/cuticle creams, have practically soaked my hands in Vaseline and covered them overnight with cott

A: Yours is not an easy question to answer, but don't despair, you still have options. Some women have harder, more brittle nails simply due to genetics. Assuming you have no skin diseases, you may want to look "inside" for the answer to this dilemma. Your diet may be lacking in Essential Fatty Acids, also known as the "cosmetic vitamins." EFA's are essential in controlling body oils that keep skin soft, smooth, and youthful. Lecithin, found in egg yolks and some other vegetables, enables the body to absorb essential fatty acids and is itself a rich source of EFA's. Vitamins A and E, along with zinc (a naturally occuring mineral), work together in many body functions, including skin development and maintenance.

Stress and environmental pollutants can contribute to dryness also. Your body requires B vitamins to function properly and will take these from nutrient stores in the hair, skin, and nails if it does not receive its daily requirements through food or supplement sources. The result is dry and brittle hair that breaks easily, as well as severely dry skin around your nails. Since B vitamins leave the body within eight hours, they need to be continually replenished; a combination of biotin, inositol, folic acid, and other substances are needed for vitamins to do their job effectively. Analyze your own diet, making sure you're getting proper nutrients, and then check with your physician and health food store expert about which supplement(s) to purchase, if necessary.

Your skin is most pliable after a bath or shower, so consider soaking your nails in hot oil after you bathe at least three times a week (Avon's "Skin-So-Soft" bath oil is an affordable, effective product). Try a hot paraffin (wax) treatment (at salons, or about $60 from Homedics); it not only is soothing, but when you remove the cooled wax from your hands, you also remove dead skin, leaving behind satiny skin.

The most effective cuticle and nail cremes I've found are Amera mousse ($14) and Sally Hansen's cuticle cremes. Beauty Without Cruelty Green Tea Nourishing Eye Gel (approximately $14.50) is a "powerhouse" of a product; not only can it be applied to the eye area, but the directions suggest using it on severely dry skin on hands, elbows, and feet. I was skeptical of this light gel, but when water beaded on my hydrated skin, I became a believer and continual user.

I was surprised to learn last week that many dermatologists recommend rubbing vegetable oil (such as Crisco) into your skin rather than Vaseline, as it is more easily absorbed. "Seal" the vegetable oil with Vaseline, and put the gloves back on. Much work and not pleasant, I'll admit, but this should help you. One last tip: before you apply nail enamel, cover your nails with a ridge-filling base coat.

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