Extra-Strength Beauty Products

While we break out less (one benefit of leaving teendom), we seem to simply break (hair, nails—teeth?!) More often. So what gives? a fair amount, apparently, over time. But no need to resign yourself: a slew of new strengthening products can reinforce your weak spots, enabling your looks to be as age defying as your brains and charm

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Teflon Nails

If there were an Atkins diet for nails, then splits and breaks would be a thing of the past. Primarily composed of keratin (a kind of protein), nails rely heavily on Dr. Robert Atkins’s favorite food group to stay strong and smooth. Over time, however, our bodies’ keratin levels drop, resulting in tips (and tresses—more on that later) that grow weaker and thinner with each year, says Ginger Coners, senior director of research and development at Coty Inc. (owner of nail-care powerhouses Sally Hansen and OPI). 


Beauty companies have started to recognize this protein problem and are finding ways to supply it via their products so our nails can get their fix. The new Sally Hansen Nailgrowth Miracle Serum ($10; drugstores), for example, boosts protein levels while moisturizing the nails to help them become more elastic and less apt to snap off.


For the thinnest nails (especially those weak-ened by acrylic tips), there is Duri Rejuvacote Nail Growth System ($14; duricosmetics.com). This brush-on treat­ment is chock-full of keratin and has long been the go-to pick of the beauty pros. In the realm of pure protection, By Terry Nail Lacquers ($30; ­barneys.com) use resin from the African Okoumé tree to protect keratin and minimize its breakdown; the resin also acts as a plastic shield, making weak nails more durable.

Kenji Aoki

Super Smile

Whitening toothpastes and at-home bleaching kits can keep your smile sparkly—up to a point. “Over the years, the enamel on teeth wears away, and our gums recede, revealing the discolored area near the nerve,” says Michael Apa, DDS, a Manhattan cosmetic dentist. The result: teeth that are weaker and more likely to chip and discolor, becoming translucent and gray—a problem not easily camouflaged by even the most potent of brighteners.


So what can we do, aside from dropping a bundle on a mouth’s worth of porcelain veneers? Brushing harder won’t help. (A bit like brushing your hair 100 times before bed, overscrubbing your teeth is now seen as doing more harm than good.) “One way to slow down enamel erosion is to use an electric toothbrush with soft bristles,” says Apa.


To complement this softer stroke, Apa also suggests using a toothpaste that gets rid of stains quickly and effectively so you’re less inclined to overdo the brushing. One brand he likes: Crest 3D White Advanced Vivid Enamel Renewal Toothpaste ($5; drugstores), which employs slightly gritty silica (the same polishing ingredient dentists use) to remove plaque and stains. The bonus? Getting rid of the buildup on your teeth is a little like exfoliating your skin: It allows strengthening treatments—in this case, fluoride—to better penetrate enamel, thickening and protecting the teeth.

Kenji Aoki

Mighty Mane

“As we age, new hair growth contains less protein,” says Jeni Thomas, a scientist in the research-and-­development labs at Procter & Gamble. The effect of this dip: Fat strands get thinner, and their vigor diminishes. “What gives hair its strength is protein. Pound for pound, healthy hair is stronger than steel,” says Thomas.


At about the same life stage, most scalps also start producing less sebum, which has a protective quality. So just as your hair weakens, it becomes more vulnerable. Good thing there are solutions. For starters, your diet should be rich in protein, especially in the morning, says Liz Cunnane-Phillips, a trichologist (hair doctor) at the Philip Kingsley Trichological Centre in Manhattan. She suggests eating a protein-rich breakfast that includes egg whites, low-fat cottage cheese or lean meat.


You can acquire protein from nondietary sources as well. Salon keratin treatments are a big business; one popular (and ­formaldehyde-free) option is the Paul Mitchell Kera-­Triplex 2-Step Repair (visit paulmitchell.com to find a salon near you). At home, try protein-enriched shampoos like the Pantene Breakage to Strength line ($4; drugstores) or tools like the Body Essentials Light and Massage Therapy Brush ($40; bodyessentialsforyou.com), which uses LED light to boost scalp circulation, upping protein-rich blood flow to hair follicles.



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Kenji Aoki

First Published April 27, 2011

Share Your Thoughts!


Janet Smith09.14.2011

I am writing to express my concern at this article's misuse of the DuPont™ Teflon® brand. The Teflon® brand is a registered trademark owned by DuPont and used to market a range of products. You are using our Teflon® brand as a generic term - to describe an attribute not related to a DuPont product, which is not acceptable. The Teflon® brand should only be used for goods made by DuPont, and is only authorized under license by DuPont. We request that you remove the inappropriate use of our brand from your website.

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