How do I treat nails damaged by chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is extremely damaging for nails because it targets the fast-replicating, growing cells. Most chemotherapy drugs can’t tell the difference between the two cell types and so end up damaging both. But contrary to popular belief, there is a lot beauty therapists and nail technicians can do to help clients whose nails have become damaged during cancer treatment – it’s just about knowing what the nail needs.

Nails change in different ways during chemotherapy. Nails that are fragile and flaking will need to be kept short, with a nail varnish or oil applied to treat the damage. Clients who are suffering from discoloured nail beds need a boost of nourishment – a nail oil should do it – followed by a dark varnish to camouflage the discolouration caused by treatment. Those who are dealing with sharp, ridged nails will also need a nail oil applied, but followed by a glitter varnish to cover the broken and dry ridges. However, it’s best not to do any comprehensive work such as extensions with someone actively in treatment because his or her immunity will be low.

There are medical devices such as cooling gloves and slippers that have been shown to reduce damage, but I always advise clients to discuss this option with their medical team first as the gloves and slippers are not verycomfortable. Plus many hospitals don’t openly offer them, but if a patient doesn’t ask they certainly won’t get. Advise your client to look into this.

Jennifer Young is the creator of specialist skincare collection Defiant Beauty and founder of Beauty Despite Cancer. She will be speaking about treating nails damaged by chemotherapy as part of the Nail Skills seminar programme at Professional Beauty London on Sunday, February 28.