Removing false eyelashes; limp hair; splitting nails

December 1, 2006

Q What is the best way to remove false eyelashes without damaging the natural eyelashes?

A False eyelashes are definitely making a fashion comeback after the height of their popularity in the 1960s. Newer glues allow false eyelash users to wear the prostheses for two to three weeks at a time, depending on the growth rate of the natural eyelashes. This is due to the superior adhesion of the newer methacrylate-based glues; however, removing the prostheses and the glue from the natural eyelashes can be a problem.

The best way to loosen the eyelashes without damaging the eye is to massage olive oil into the eyelashes. The olive oil will soak between the loosened glue and the false eyelashes to facilitate removal. The olive oil does not hurt the eye and can be shampooed from the false eyelashes.

Q Why do some types of hair become limp when exposed to high humidity?

A One of the most common complaints of women with thinning hair is that their hair "goes limp" when exposed to high humidity, sweat and rain. This occurs because of the presence of water deformable bonds within the hair shaft. These bonds are the basis for curling and setting hair immediately after shampooing. The water deformable bonds are released from their current configuration when wetted and reformed in that instant of time when the hair shaft goes from being wet to completely dry. The hair shaft will remain in the set position until rewetted later. Many women with thinning hair use curl to give their hair more fullness. Moisture exposure releases the curl, making it straight and "limp." The hair itself has not changed in thickness or physical characteristics, but the water reformable bonds have reverted to their original configuration. Some of the new water-resistant hair sprays can aid in keeping the hair curled despite moisture contact.

Q Why do nails split?

A Nails split due to dehydration. Remember that water is the plasticizer of all nonliving protein structures of the body. These structures include the nails, hair and stratum corneum. If the water is removed, the protein loses its elastic properties and becomes brittle. The smallest amount of trauma will fracture the protein. Unfortunately, the fractured protein cannot be repaired and the lost water cannot be replaced. Water is most commonly lost from the nail plate with repeated exposure to hand washing detergents and cleaning solvents.

Some of the water in the nail plate can be temporarily replaced by humectants, such as lactic acid and urea. Urea slightly degrades the nail plate keratin and increases the sites where water can bind, increasing flexibility. The combination of protective gloves and moisturizers is the best protection against nail plate splitting.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a clinical associate professor of dermatology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C., and primary investigator, Dermatology Consulting Services, High Point, N.C.

Questions may be submitted via e-mail to zdraelos@northstate.net.