I am not, nor have I ever been, a nail biter. Thumb sucker, yes, hair twirler, yes, but biting nails has never held any attraction for me. And yet my nails simply won't grow. For years I have hidden their true state with a well applied slick of colour.
You can always tell how busy I am by what state they are in: full-on colour and decent shape (if a little on the short side) - not much going on at Casa Hannah. Scraggly edges and no colour - I'm out there having a life. But, like waking up with last night's mascara on my pillow, I am sick of having to paint my nails to make them look nice. I want grown-up nails, the kind that don't need varnish to hide their faults.
A lack of calcium, zinc and magnesium is thought to be behind nails that constantly chip and peel. White spots are caused not by a lack of calcium, as so often thought, but lack of iron. Horizontal ridges, from which I suffer, are apparently down to either calcium or magnesium deficiency. So I'll be ditching my daily packet of crisps in favour of zinc-rich nuts and seeds, and doing a Popeye on the spinach front.
As a great believer in beauty products you can find in the kitchen, I'll be rigorously applying olive oil to my nails and cuticles to keep them hydrated and to try to prevent them from peeling. "Do not let nails get too long too quick," advises Lisa Bennett, of Lena White (UK distributor of OPI, one of the current nail ranges in vogue; 01923 240010). "Make sure that once nails grow you keep them filed and buffed. Buffing helps bring the body's natural nutrients to the nail and stimulates strong, healthy growth. If you are not used to a longer length of nail, keep them to a chic 'squoval' shape and to a maximum of 4mm until strong," says Bennett, who recommends a good quality nail hardener to protect soft nails.
Nail varnish also acts as a protective layer, but use a non-acetone remover that will not dry out nails. And finally, a word on filing: "Always file from side to centre with a low grit file. If you saw at nails you could find them separating and peeling."