Nails (You Magazine, April 16, 2023)

I used to have great nails. They started breaking off, there was nothing I could do to stop them being frayed, brittle, dry and stumpy – it happened quite dramatically after the pandemic. Possibly a sign that my thyroid hormones were off, possibly a sign that I was old and not producing oestrogen in giant amounts, but I had all these checked, and for a woman who thinks Barbra Streisand is her real mother, this would not do at all.

I’d already suffered the horrors of falling hair and bald patches due to stress. I’ve already had that dream and already spent more than a mortgage on hair products. I was treated by Harley Street doctor, Dr. Sophie Shotter, and Annabel Kingsley, trichologist. I was fully dosed up with all kinds of vitamins and minerals, what works for hair should also work for nails, right? Wrong. The falling hair dreams were replaced by falling nails reality. They looked ugly. You don’t need a mirror to look at nails, you just look down and that’s how easy it is to ruin your day. The message is: you’re very unhealthy and you’re not worthy of your Barbra heritage. Barbra always said she had self-confidence but no self-esteem, surely this was about having great nails. Barbra could embrace contradiction, she said, “I am simple, complex, generous, selfish, unattractive, beautiful, lazy and driven”. And that was me as well! But no embracing of extremes could be possible if I had broken stumps.

Dr Sophie says, “as oestrogen levels drop, so do the hydration levels of your nails, making them more brittle – it’s common in the perimenopause. Hypothyroidism is also a cause of dry nails, because it makes circulation sluggish” and, as we all know, the nails are the last to go – the nutrients don’t reach there, as with hair, they just fall or fail. I was already taking hair vitamins, which are also advised for nails: zinc, vitamin D, calcium and collagen. Perhaps this wasn’t an internal problem, perhaps it was external and I was just wanting a quick fix. I was saved by nail guru Leighton Denny and his products. You can get them at Marks and Spencer or at He invented the Crystal Nail File – one sold every 60 seconds – and he’s a fellow dyslexic – never read a book, probably not even the one he wrote, what’s not to love? A former forklift truck driver from Bradford, and now an MBE. Who gets an MBE for services to nails? He reads nails like a psychic, he once discovered a woman was pregnant because of her nails – she had had many rounds of IVF and got very angry that they’d failed but she got pregnant naturally and Leighton was the tester. He got a floral tribute. 

He came to nails after doing courses on hair and aromatherapy and put all this knowledge into his nail products. Apparently nails get ridges as they age, like wrinkles. But, he says, that this can all be sorted out. “How many people’s nails suffered as a side effect of Covid or the Covid vaccine? But they’re getting better now”. We talk about Covid’s contribution to people’s hair falling out or its sudden inability to take colour, and how excessive washing and hand sanitising affected the nails. I used his products during lockdown because the polishes come with an extra-wide brush, and I could always apply them myself when salons were closed. During lockdown, I broke my leg and had to have surgery. Everywhere was closed and so I couldn’t remove the gel on my nails – I had to pick the polish off and my nails didn’t recover. “Oil is the best thing for dry nails”, Leighton recommends his Renovate Cuticle Oil for cuticles. The lady at the nail salon said I had to give my nails a break and let them breathe. Leighton retorts: “nails don’t have lungs. It’s all about the oil being applied. You can’t overdo it.”

My nails seemed to be bad as a result of age and abuse. I look back on the days where I enjoyed my nails and them being admired, no matter what was wrong with me. I remember going to Jessica Nails of Hollywood, it was the closest I ever got to a women power gang – all the top agents and lawyers getting their nails done on a Saturday. All mini Barbras. Yes, I’m obsessed and it’s probably not healthy. But, to me, power nails was having the world at your fingertips – literally. Leighton says, “you have to treat your nails like your hair. You go to have your split ends cut off and you think ‘oh but I don’t want to lose my length!’ yet the hair is better for it, and so are the nails. If they are in a bad condition, it is a necessary evil to file off the tips. You can’t really repair damaged tips, but you can save the nail bed and start again.”

The nails seem to take longer to grow than hair, perhaps because you’re always looking at them. Leighton advises, “no matter how short your nails are, you can always make them shine and look good. You can go for that ‘clean girl’ aesthetic”. Except that, at my heart, I’m a dirty girl. Nails being the window to the soul – strong, shaped nails say you are a strong, shaped person. When I had my surgery, they didn’t want to look at my eyes to see if they’d gone blue, they wanted to look at my nails. “The nail bed shows so much about general health and circulation.”

Since the Covid vaccine, I smell like a dog. For instance, I can smell green vegetables ten minutes past their sell-by date inside my fridge, and all water tastes of liquid metal. And while everyone’s been obsessed with post-Covid hair falling out, it’s my nails that find it harder to survive. Leighton says, “we’ve got to go back to basics. Get natural ingredients and goodness back into nails – we have to look at it as skincare for nails. Nails can be very non-committal, it’s not as dramatic as having your hair coloured or eyelashes put on, that you hate a week later because you’re sweeping the passage with them. You can do your own nails – put them on, take them off, it’s fast. It can uplift you and change your whole outfit and you look immediately groomed”. He recommends his nail facial.


“I recommend a non-acetone remover, my remover is essentially oil-based, don’t just think about going to the chemist and stripping it all off, it is like washing your face in alcohol. Then you file with a crystal file. The crystal file means you don’t get the nail splitting because it seals the tips. People shouldn’t buy a nail file because it’s a cute colour or easilyfits into their handbag . The Crystal Nail File is suitable for all nail types, bendy or brittle or strong. Remember, it’s a myth about colours affecting the nails. The nails should never come into direct contact with colour, because of the base”. Which is why I’ve been enjoying the product GET GLAZED, it’s a donut glaze but for nails – it makes them look iridescent and like moons. And if you apply it after the base coat, it’s neither light nor dark, it’s iridescent and pungent. Groomed and effortless.


“You start with the Duplex Buffer, it’s soft and gentle like a microdermabrasion. Then you put on the Renovate Nail Cream, which has been blended with an ingredient that is used in the dental industry for implants, it is used to strengthen bone.”

Hydrate, condition and treat

Renovate Cream is like the nourishing and restorative treatment part of the facial, packed with active ingredients to condition, strengthen and revive dry, damaged and flaky nails.

Seal and shine

“Use the Duplex Buffer to really work the Renovate Cream into the nail.”


“It’s best to have a break, to let all the ingredients do their magic. Then you protect the nails with the Renovate Shield, this is like the barrier cream or SPF part of your facial, which you can apply once as a base coat or twice as a treatment alone. It’s like applying scaffolding and it acts like a natural building gel.”


“You finish with the Renovate Cuticle Oil, you can never over-moisturise your nails, so use it as often as you can. You can use it when you’ve got acrylics or gel or anything on.”

The nail beds are the first place to show the body is lacking oxygen, which is why the surgeons watch the nail beds while the patient is under anaesthetic. Pink is good news, blue means not so good. Your nails speak even when you can’t. Which is all part of their charm.

Monica Bellucci (June 17, 2012)

Monica Bellucci comes into the room and the room gasps. We are backstage at the Dolce & Gabbana fashion show in Milan. The room is dark, lit by floral chandeliers. Monica is wearing a dramatic black lace blouse, black flared jeans and dominatrix heels. Her long black hair is a silk sheet. She is not model tall. She is womanly with a magnificent décolletage.

Bellucci, 47, is known for her daring film choices like Mary Magdalene in The Passion and a rape victim in Irreversible. She is married to the actor Vincent Cassel, 45, who always seems to go for the sadistic roles, most notably as the artistic director who slept with the leading dancers in Black Swan.

She is Italian. Her essence, her style, her embrace are all Italian. He is French. And together they have two children Deva, seven, and Leonie, two. The family have houses in Italy, France, England and Brazil – though Monica, who comes from Citta di Castello in Umbria says her heart will always be in Italy.

We have met to discuss her latest role – as the face (or at least the lips) of the new Dolce & Gabbana lipstick, which comes in shades ranging from the dramatic Magnetic Monica, which is a compelling purple, to the classic red Chic Monica. Even Natural Monica, which is the most understated in dark beige, manages to look standout. Monica is wearing it for our interview to demonstrate that on her less is still more. “I have always loved lipstick, she says. “For women, that love comes from our mother and grandmothers. It seems so natural for a woman to open up her mirror, look in it and apply lipstick.” Here she happily discusses the joys of motherhood, marriage and her favourite Monica lippy.

I have been friends with Domenico and Stefano (Dolce & Gabbana) a very long time. We’ve done many beautiful things together, beautiful campaigns and they make beautiful clothes. We are close friends and I respect everything they do. I love what they do. Their clothes are sensual and elegant at the same time. They are real artists who love and respect women. Their inspiration is Italy – our culture and our tradition. They are inspired by great Italian movies – by Fellini and Rossellini and those amazing Italian leading ladies like Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani. And you can feel like one of these women in their creations. They have such a strong identity and you can tell they are Italian.

I am Italian through and through. Wherever I go I am Italian. The way I talk, the way I eat, the way femininity is important to me. The way I love Italian food. For this season’s fashion campaign Dolce & Gabbana shot me eating at a picnic with a family. That is beautiful – it’s not about the biological beauty, it’s about another kind of beauty. It’s about the womanliness that comes to your face and your body from your life and your experience.

I met Vincent working on a movie – my first French movie The Apartment. And we have now been together for 17 years (married for ten). It was not an instant thing, not at all. I was attracted to him – at the same time I wasn’t sure of him. We got together, I don’t know why. I feel we don’t really choose the person we are with. It happens for us – they are there and that was how it was and that’s how it is. For now.

You never know how long it will last. I can never say what’s going to happen. Of course I’d be very happy if we were together forever. But I don’t know. You never know. You should never take things for granted, especially in a relationship. But we do have our children and the love of them means that that love is forever. I hope our relationship will be forever but live this day by day. My relationship with Vincent has changed since we had children. We were together 10 years as a couple – a long time – so of course everything changed but for the good. I accept the fact we can never be in one place {because of our work} and so does he. This is our life. We are like gypsies travelling around.

I always wanted children late; I had my first daughter at 39 and the second at 44. Before that I wasn’t ready to become a mother. I wasn’t ready for something so incredibly huge, something that would change my life forever. I think it was because I am an only child. In a way I always felt a child – too much into myself. I worried I wouldn’t be ready to give myself. When the first one came, I thought I’d have another really quickly because I knew I didn’t have much time left. I was breastfeeding for the longest time and ultimately I wanted to have time with just her and be really confident with and know who she really is before I could get pregnant with my second. I was lucky to get pregnant at 44. We didn’t have to try for a long time. It was natural.

I would have been disappointed if I had left it too late to have a second child. But life is hard sometimes and you just have to accept things. They will either happen or won’t happen – it’s not in our hands. We have to be really humble and accept destiny. Some things happen that you just can’t change.

I have really changed since having my daughters. I feel more complete and they helped me grow up. In a way they help me escape from my childhood, which was like a prison to me. Not that my parents weren’t great, they were. But because I was an only child there was some loneliness, a disconnectedness. It was difficult for me to come out of these feelings. I had plenty of cousins and people around me, but always that same loneliness that made me sad. It was strange because now on the other side of it I feel that need for aloneness, a need for freedom, a need to be just by myself. And at the same time having children helped me learn how to love and be connected fully with others.

My children make me happy. When they are calm and sleeping in their beds I look at them and say, ‘love you.’ That makes me calm and happy. There are some days though where I wake up in the morning and maybe someone I know is not doing so well or the world is not doing well, and I feel sad. Usually I wake up happy. I have a cappuccino and maybe I’ll see a friend and everything feels fine to me. Usually I’m only sad when something sad happens. I am not a melancholic person. I like to live very much in the present. If I was an animal I’d be a little cat. They know the best things in life – they like to live life. My animal instincts come out every day. I feel that is important.

I travel so much that my oldest daughter speaks four languages – Italian, French, English, and Portuguese. I speak a little Portuguese but my daughter speaks it better than me. I always feel Italy is my home but it is important for my husband that we also live in France. Sometimes we live as a family all together but as we are two working actors sometimes we have to be apart. Sometimes I’m shooting a movie, sometimes he is. Now that we have the kids we try to make it that if one is working the other doesn’t work. The ideal would be if we could work together. We have worked together before but not in a long time. Luckily we are going to be doing a new movie together in Brazil. It is a love story about a couple who have been living together a long time and problems develop because they have lived together so long. They separate and we see how they deal with that. It will be filmed in Brazil and it’s going to be in Portuguese and English.

I don’t know if my work/life balance is perfect. I don’t work all the time. That’s why I waited to have kids until I was ready for that. I try to organise my time according to my kids because my kids need me. I don’t want to put my work first anymore because it’s not as important as my kids.

We are so scared about losing beauty as we age. I try not to worry about these things. I am scared about death because I have two kids and I want to see them grow up. There is nothing you can do about getting older, you just have to deal with it. Before I had children I didn’t think about death and I didn’t really feel that I was ageing. When I had my second child at 45 I felt old because I realised that I felt much stronger physically when I was younger. Having said that, I feel much better in myself mentally today than when I was 20. I am confident and I deal with my problems better. I accept who I am and that perfection doesn’t exist. I did a Vanity Fair shoot when I was pregnant In 2004. I didn’t care about being fat and pregnant. I think it’s beautiful.

Sometimes I think if I gain weight I will just wear black because it’s easier. I used to never work out. And even now I don’t like to work out every day. I don’t like to watch what I eat every day. I don’t want to be a machine. After my second daughter was born I realised that I needed to pay more attention to workout regimes. Before then it was much easier.

I have just finished an Iranian movie (Rhinos Season) which is coming out this year. I play an Iranian woman who is living 30 years after the revolution in Iran. (The movie is a love story set against the backdrop of the political changes in Iran from before the revolution to the present day). And I’m about to shoot a French movie where I play an over-the-top Italian, very exaggerated. It is a comedy and the first time I’ve done comedy. I’m looking forward to that. I think I can be funny.

The most important thing for my daughters is to find a passion in their lives. I want them to find that passion. When we are growing up we want to please our parents, as we grow older we have to articulate what we want for ourselves. I intended to study law at university (in Perugia). But there was a moment where I was asked to do some modelling and from that I fell in to acting. That was difficult time for me because all my friends were coming out of university and I didn’t know what to do with my life. I didn’t know if movies would be my future. I was really insecure. I felt really lucky that movies worked for me. You have to be ready to accept whatever happens. I certainly didn’t have the answers then.

I have a house in London and I come back to London all the time. I have some good friends there. In Italy we are much more provincial. In Britain you are much more courageous, especially in the way you dress. I feel a freedom there and that people care less about what people think. I don’t know if I dress differently there. In fact I usually dress in Dolce & Gabbana, but because of the way the clothes make me feel.

Monica On Make-Up….

I always wear some make up, even on quiet days when I am not doing so much with my time. I like to start using Perfect Finish Creamy Foundation as a base as it’s lighter than air and doesn’t make me feel ‘caked’.

I am also never afraid to try new colours – why not? For lipstick I love all the shades in the Monica Collection and feel drawn to the different shades depending on how I feel. I adore the Attractive one, which is the shade I wore for the advertising campaign. It’s a really fulsome red that is just timeless.

When you choose a red colour it’s because you feel you want to be looked at more. Sometimes you like this kind of feeling, and sometimes you just want to be natural. When you put on a red shade it’s because you accept people looking at you. The red is such a strong colour and it’s about you – this is not necessarily a sexual thing. If a man sees a woman with red lipstick he admires her, but often he won’t feel like kissing her.

Rules are made to be broken sometimes. I also don’t think it’s necessarily always the case that you should only play up lips or eyes – sometimes I like to wear a strong lip and then finish the look with a defined eye.

Lipstick is a statement that I’m ready for anything. Even if I pay no attention to anything else, I will put on a layer of mascara and add a slick of lipstick too, even if it’s a super natural shade.

I can’t compromise on the mascara and even if I’m wearing very soft make up I always wear mascara, usually a black one. It helps me to feel ‘finished’ and ready for the day. I love to use Dolce & Gabbana Intenseyes Mascara as nothing else creates such a beautiful full, feathered look.

Monica’s Hot List

Style Icon: Leading ladies like Claudia Cardinale, Sofia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Silvana Mangano…those stars of the golden age who oozed sensuality and feminine charm. I tried to channel that slightly audacious, knowingly provocative attitude in the shoot for my collection.

Favourite book: Irene Nemirosky.

Favourite book: La Dolce Vit