Years ago, I decided upon Elvira as my Halloween costume. Ultra-disciplined to nail the goth vixen’s look, I grew my nails strong and long enough to be sculpted into stiletto-like talons to match the requisite patent leather pumps. It was the first time I’d had a powder dip manicure. The nail tech assured me it was healthier than my Lincoln Park gel addiction. After a buffing machine, a fan, and dozens of chemical-laden formulas, I was all vamp and totally hooked … then Covid hit. Months into an at-home press-on nail habit, as well as regular acetone soaking to remove them, my nails were wrecked – still are. Brittle, cracked, little nubs not fit for the light of day, my nails needed an intervention – and then I found Dr. Dana’s Nail Renewal System, a dermatologist-created restorative nail regiment.
During the thousands of mani-pedis I’ve had this lifetime, I’d never thought to ask, “Do derms do nails?” Dr. Dana, a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, does. After years of seeing patients with splitting nail beds and desiccated cuticles wrecked by toxic treatments and harsh grooming, the doctor had a brilliant idea: with so many advancements in cleansers, serums, and essences, skin care quality actives for nails were way overdue. Another bonus, Dr. Dana formulated the vegan and cruelty-free Nail Renewal System free of the nasties (formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, camphor, toluene, artificial fragrances, dyes, alcohol, and parabens, so it squarely qualifies as clean beauty.
The latest offering in the Nail Renewal System is all brass tacks. Turns out the most fundamental tool in nail care, the traditional emery board, is not the no-brainer we assumed. The rougher side is especially reminiscent of those harsh apricot seed facial scrubs we used to buy at the drugstore. With large, irregular particles, they create microscopic tears that do more harm than good, leaving the delicate nail bed rough and prone to the breakage that jeopardizes the life of a good mani. Dr. Dana’s antidote, the Precision Glass Nail File smooths, shines, and shapes like a charm, quickly and with precision – better than any emery board I’ve ever used. That it’s hygienic and always sharp due to the nonporous, double-sided design means you’ll have it for a long time, which makes this mini-exfoliator for your nails sustainable, as well as practical. It easily ranks in my top 10 beauty finds of the summer.
The ethos of the 3-part Nail Renewal Kit which launched the brand is the same as any skincare regime – cleanse, exfoliate, then treat.
After a few passes of the glass file to remove the top layer of detritus, it’s time for Step 1: an application of the Glycolic Prep to clean, dry, polish-free nails. If chemical exfoliation pre-mani isn’t a genius idea, what is? Step 2 is all about the Priming Wand. After several passes using each side of this tri-grit buffer, each featuring different levels of abrasiveness to maximize exfoliation, nails are prepped for maximum absorption of the rejuvenating treatment – think of it as essence or primer for your nails. It helps pack the glycolic prep into the deeper layers, while creating incredible luster.
The final step, an application of the Deep Hydrating Formula, a next-level hybrid of gel and oil that contains the star exotic ingredient, Pistacia Lentiscus (Mastic Gum), the sap of a Mediterranean evergreen tree, to nourish, restore and strengthen the nail bed, seals the deal. My nails and cuticles drank up the hydration – I never thought I’d write such a sentence – so I applied another coat to saturate my bedraggled cuticles. My nails had a healthy sheen that I hadn’t seen in a while.
The next morning I hesitated to wash my hands for fear of rinsing off the glow. Post-shower, I couldn’t help but notice how glossy my nails were. After a week of use, my length isn’t yet remotely Elvira-like, but I’ve reached a milestone. My nails are no longer cracked and have sustained growth and uniform length. Forget glass skin, I now have glass nails.