Whether you're a regular at the local nail salon or like to indulge in a gel manicure every now and then, having your nails trimmed, smoothed, and polished by a professional can feel like the ultimate act of self-care. However, there's a special type of frustration that comes when your nail polish chips just a few days after leaving the salon, or when painful ingrown nails form along your cuticle.

1. not keeping their nails and cuticles moisturized

"Your nails need the same amount of moisture that your face needs," Mabelyn Martin, the creative director at New York City-based nail salon Paintbox, said. "Not hydrating, whether you have gel or regular polish, is the biggest mistake I see women make on a regular basis." Martin recommended using natural oils such as argan oil, sweet almond oil, or jojoba oil, but she said most cuticle oil products are also viable options. Keeping nails hydrated is important no matter what types of manicures you get, or even if you don't wear polish at all, Martin said, but using oils regularly on the cuticle and nail is especially vital for people who get gel manicures. You can evaluate nail damage depending on their flexibility: normal nails are somewhat flexible, but the sturdier and harder the nail, the more chances are that it would break. Since cold weather dries the skin, appropriate cuticle hydration can make a huge difference. Moreover, acetone can be tremendously drying to the nail bed, causing nails to become brittle or even break over time. To counter nail dryness, always keep the cuticle oil handy.

2. Using nail strengtheners that contain harsh chemicals, like formaldehyde, is very bad for nails

Some nail-strengthening products contain chemicals that tend to be too harsh for people's nails, Martin said. "Women should be careful with nail strengtheners because they tend to be too harsh. I see people use them all the time, and they can be extremely damaging," Martin said. Martin explained that nail strengtheners often contain formaldehyde, which can harden and dry out the nail, making it more likely to crack. "Those products make the nail like a piece of glass — hard, sure, but extremely breakable," Martin said. "Instead, women should just use cuticle oil to make their nails stronger. Using oils consistently will make the nail more bendable and pliable, and that's what you want. . . it's better than having a dry, breakable nail."

3. Peeling or picking off gel polish can cause major nail damage

Picking at gel polish or peeling it off the nail completely is a sure-fire way to cause damage. She said most gel polish manicures should last about two weeks, but if the polish begins to peel earlier, she recommends trying to avoid ripping it off the nail. Once you cause that damage from picking off the gel, you have to wait until the entire nail grows out in order to have a clean slate.

4. You’re removing an old gel manicure without professional help.

Once a gel manicure is on its last leg, you may be tempted to remove it yourself, but experts advise against it. The safest way to remove gel polish is by a professional.

If you absolutely can’t make it to the salon for removal, we advises you first gently file the top of the polish to remove the shine, which allows the acetone to penetrate and dissolve the gel easier. Next, soak cotton balls in acetone (a chemical commonly used in gel nail polish removal), apply a cotton ball to each nail, and wrap it in tin foil. Leave the wraps on for 10 to 15 minutes, and then, using a wooden cuticle pusher, gently push the gel off of the nail plates. To finish, lightly buff the surface of the nail with a buffing tool, and apply oil to your nails and cuticles to rehydrate.

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