Looking to grow and maintain healthy, gorgeous nails? Welcome to the club. For many of us, our natural nails aren’t as strong as we’d like them to be – they feel weak and brittle.
The good news, however, is that with some simple lifestyle changes and breaking some – bad – habits, you can have the nails you’ve always dreamed of. Taking proper care of your nails on a regular basis will ensure that they’re always in the best condition.
We’ve tried out all the hacks; spoken to all the experts and compiled 12 of the best tips that will help your nails grow longer, stronger and healthier.
Cuticle care is the key to the perfect manicure. Dry, flaky cuticles can, not only, make your nails look very messy, but they can also become more prone to infections. Your cuticles protect the base of your nails and prevent bacteria from infecting your nail bed.
Simply applying cuticle oil on each nail before bed will help keep them nourished and hydrated. We recommend using cuticle oil, or you can dab a bit of lip balm and massage into your cuticles instead.
To have healthy nails, you need to also have nourished cuticles. They essentially protect the base of your nail so, if your cuticles aren’t cared for and are dry, it makes them prone to infection.
You moisturize your face before bed, why shouldn’t you give the same attention to your hands & nails? Keep a tube of hand cream by your bed and deeply massage some into your hands every evening – during winter is particularly important because your skin becomes more susceptible to dryness during the cold weather.
Regularly applying lotion will maintain the moisture and prevent any breakage. If you find that your hands always feel dry, it’s a good idea to protect them from the cold weather and during any cleaning activities – a pair of gloves will do the trick!
Sometimes your nail health comes down to your nails simply not getting the vitamins they need. Getting that daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun is great and all, but let’s be honest, relying on this in the UK is unrealistic.
So, what can we do to get our dose of vitamins when we’re constantly stuck under a downpour of rain? Fortunately, there is an abundance of vitamins which encourage nail health. Biotin, for one, is found in many food sources – nuts, avocado, eggs – and can be available as supplements. Taking this daily will encourage cell growth and strengthen your nail plate!
Don’t bite your nails
Of course I understand that this is easier said than done – trust me, I used to be a nail biter. But biting your nails is definitely a habit that needs to be stopped – not only is it not that hygienic (you have no idea how much dirt can get under your nails), but it also damages your nail bed and makes it more prone to infection.
After all, it only takes a small cut for bacteria to enter and infect your nail bed.
Wear gloves when you’re cleaning
Anytime that you’re washing up the dishes or cleaning with toxic chemicals, we recommend using rubber gloves. These ingredients severely weaken the nail bed by stripping the natural oils that your nail bed produces to keep them nourished. As such, this causes your natural nails to become weak and brittle – using rubber gloves when taking part in such tasks will protect your hands and nails from these harsh chemicals.
Take a break from polish
In particular gels and acrylics. If you religiously get gel manicures or acrylics, we recommend having a two-week break every 6 weeks and applying a layer of regular polish instead. Not only do gels and acrylics not let your nail bed breathe, but the process of getting them removed can damage and dehydrate the natural nail – especially when it’s not done professionally.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t ever have gels – after all, the long-lasting shine is definitely worth the hassle, but know when it’s time to let them breathe. Sometimes, a small break is all your nails need to rejuvenate.
Keep nails trimmed
As much as having long nails is a lifelong dream for many of us, the reality is that they are harder to manage and break more often. Having shorter nails – especially if your nails are weak – will look neater and feel healthier. Much like your hair, regularly trimming your nails will encourage nail growth and keep them nutritious. If you still want to grow them, I recommend waiting until they’re strong so that they’re less likely to chip.
Be careful about which products you use
Some polishes and nail polish removers are bad for your nails. They can weaken, dry out and strip the natural oils from your nail bed. If you’re in doubt, always do research before buying a new polish or book in for a professional manicure.
If you work with your hands a lot, it may be handy to have a few nail files on hand (I have one on my desk) – they can be useful when smoothing away any uneven or sharp edges to avoid them catching on to something and breaking.
If you do start to file your own nails, I recommend working in one direction. It’s very common to go back and forth without realizing; however, this isn’t the best way of protecting your nails. In fact, filing in one direction will create a smoother finish and reduce the risk of your nails chipping.
Don’t use your nails as tools
Your nails are delicate and keeping them in good condition means taking care of them. Using them as tools – opening cans with the tip of your nail, constantly tapping them on the surface, scratching things off – adds unnecessary pressure to your nail bed and causes them to break. It can also cause any polish to chip – a big no-no from me!
Pay attention to your nails
Always keep an eye on your nails. Recognize when they’re healthy and when they need some work. Healthy nails often have white tips, pink-ish nail beds and noticeable cuticles (do not cut them – they are there for a reason). If you notice that your nails are feeling weak, are discoloured or feel brittle, then it might be time to take a break – it’ll do them good!
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Credit: Zoe Greenwood