Give your manicure my 10-step midlife makeover

Hannah Betts’s Better…not younger: Give your manicure my 10-step midlife makeover (trust me, it’s worth it!)

  • Hannah Betts shares her strategy for strong, healthy fingernails in midlife
  • UK-based beauty columnist reveals a selection of calming cleansers 
  • Glisten Cosmetics Shape Shifter Highlight Palette is this week’s craving

My nails have always been a sore point — a term I use literally. I was born, prematurely, without them. And the moment they appeared, I gnawed them off.

No amount of bribery could persuade me to stop biting them. Even my deputy headmistress binding my hands behind my back didn’t help.

Later, in the office, I would be satirised for holding my arms elegantly aloft while biting, in the manner of some Thirties glamour puss wielding a cigarette holder.

I supposedly gave up savaging my fingers when I started a beauty column aged 30 — a decision that only stuck when I renounced booze at 43. Even now, I have a tendency to chew my thumb nails when I’m stressed.

UK-based beauty columnist Hannah Betts shares her strategy for strong, healthy fingernails in midlife (file image)

It’s not good, not least as nail condition is another thing to go south in midlife. As manicure maestro Leighton Denny MBE explains: ‘Declining oestrogen levels weaken keratin (the protein nails are made of) leading to weaker, more dehydrated, brittle nails.’

Allow me to share my own top tips. I’ve tried every solution known to man — or rather woman — for the past 50 years, and have finally nailed nails. No single strengthener or supplement has made a jot of difference compared with my strategy.

The trick is to make talon tending a hobby — invest in your perfect ten by means of time and money, not only to foster growth, but also to discourage self-sabotage. If you turn this into a project, you will be less inclined to ruin your good work.

The first habit I embraced was using Leighton Denny’s Nail Rebirth Intensive Nail Repair Capsules (£25 for 30, leighton, rich in nourishing oils. I fed my nail beds with a pod every night for a month and will keep doing so. It works.

The brand’s Renovate & Duplex Buffer Kit (£12, was fixation number two. The nail cream and polishing device stimulate growth and render unpainted nails shiny.

Leighton himself notes: ‘I’ve always said nail ridges are like wrinkles — they deepen with age. This kit works like nail Botox.’

Then, a couple of times a week, I apply Mavala’s Scientifique K+ Nail Hardener (£7.60 for 2ml, It strengthens the nail plate thanks to an active ingredient that improves the cohesion of keratin fibres, binding the nail’s three principal layers together to strengthen the tips.

Once you have a bit of growth, paint it in a stripe from the top of your crescent moon to the nail’s end, avoiding the base and sides. Dangle the hand upside down until the nails are dry so the solution doesn’t run onto the cuticles. Used properly, there’s nothing like it.

Hannah Betts (pictured) uses Essie’s new Hard To Resist Nail Strengthener, when she wants a sheer, healthy-looking tint 

Essie’s new Hard To Resist Nail Strengthener (£7.49, is what I use when I want a sheer, healthy-looking tint (which I prefer to pale, solid colour, which makes my man hands look stumpy).

Hailed as ‘Olaplex for nails’, after the hair-bond builder, 93 per cent of testers agreed that their nails felt stronger. It comes in two transparent hues — purple to neutralise yellowness, and pink — and you reapply every three days.

Neutrogena’s Hand & Nail Cream (£4.49, really seems to help, too. But the deal breaker was purchasing such a vast bottle of Cuccio Milk & Honey Cuticle Oil (£9.95 for 73ml, that I could cover my fingers and toes in it. After massaging, I seal in the goodness with something thicker — Vaseline, perhaps, or whatever lip balm I have to hand.

I find painting my nails not only makes them hardier, but also means I’m less inclined to mess about with them. Mavala Mava-Strong Fortifying & Protective Base Coat (£17.65, is excellent.

I adore Opi’s beautiful, long-lasting lacquers, with Got The Blues For Red (£8.95, nailpolish being my favourite film-star hue. However, I’m currently obsessed with Sally Hansen’s Good Kind Pure Nail Polish in Natural Spring (£7.19,, a mauve blue.

I’ve also taken to separating out the different phases of the process — base coat in the evening, colour first thing, top coat at lunch, say — so I don’t wreck my good work. I may not have reached Rihanna-type extremes, but I could finally hold my own in a cat fight.


Beauty Pie’s hyper-hydrator Happy Face Extreme Relief Cica Moisture Cream (£12.29 for members, £60 for non-members, has enjoyed stratospheric sales, receiving rave reviews for its soothing formula. Billed as ‘a cashmere blanket for your face’, it is a must for winter-worn complexions.



It’s likely that the Queen (pictured) uses Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream, as the brand has held a royal warrant for decades

As we celebrate her Platinum Jubilee, it’s worth noting how great the Queen looks at 95. Elizabeth Arden has held a royal warrant for decades, so the rumour that she uses its Eight Hour Cream (£27.99, is likely true. She loves Clarins’ Ever Matte Mineral Powder Compact (£28, and Hand And Nail Treatment Cream (£9). Her manicures are done with Essie’s Ballet Slippers polish (£7.99,


A divine, dense, honey-like balm that emulsifies into a light milk (launches tomorrow).

A geranium-scented, oil-to-cream, enriched with elderberry and apricot oils, plus papaya for exfoliation.

 This gel-to-oil-to-milk is designed to melt away impurities and give you glow.

The cult Gen Z cleanse that transforms from gel to a calming oil, alleviating acne scarring.

A thick, well-loved cream, this works wonders on extreme dryness and spots.


Glisten Cosmetics is a family-and-friend-run brand created by 30-year-old Natalie Chapple, a teacher turned make-up guru.

Forget sensible neutrals —Glisten’s entry into the make-up world was glitter. Its USP is colourful, inclusive, affordable products with a focus on pure joy. My current crush is the Shape Shifter Highlight Palette, a multi-tasker I have been using as an eyeshadow and highlighter kit to brighten up February.

The colour isn’t such a jolt that it washes me out.

An array of iridescent blue, turquoise, golden green, purple pink and red pink shades, they reflect light just as beautifully by day as by night. 

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