Tips to Get Strong and Healthy Nails

We all want strong, healthy and beautiful nails, but most of us are busy bees and break our nails on a regular basis. Poor nail care leads to our nails being brittle. How can you take properly care of your nails to make sure they stop chipping and breaking easily. Show your nails some much needed love.

1. Be gentle on your nails.

Your nails are delicate, and scrubbing them too roughly can actually expose you to infection. Another no-no: Using metal tools under the nail: too much digging can cause the nail plate to separate from the skin (called onycholysis). It’s a common problem for people over 50, according to Dr. Stern, who is also the developer of the Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System. This could also lead to an irregular white, arching nail tip, explains NYC dermatologist Dr. Janet Prystowsky.

2. Clip your nails regularly.

Regular trims are as important to your nails as they are to your hair, says Dr. Prystowsky. So set aside time to clip them every two weeks. You can adjust this to more or less often once you see how your nails respond.

3. Prioritize nail health over length.

Long nails are beautiful, but if you’re someone who struggles with snags or breakage, Dr. Shamban recommends that you keep your nails short — at least to start out with. A shorter style with a rounded edge tends to be easier to manage and looks neater, so you can focus on building strength without worrying about anything else. As long as each nail is uniform in shape and matches its nine neighbors, you won’t miss the added length.

4. Always keep a nail file on hand.

If you’re someone whose work or gym routine causes a lot of wear and tear, Dr. Prystowsky suggests keeping a nail file handy to smooth away any rough edges that happen on the spot. The best way to do it? Work in one direction with the grain of your nail for a smoother finish.

5. Don’t forget to take care of your nail tools, too.

Disinfecting your nail tools between uses is just as important as regularly cleaning your makeup brushes, and for the same reason — the build up of bacteria. To keep your nails happy and infection-free, Dr. Prystowsky advises washing metal tools with soap and water and then wiping down with rubbing alcohol. And don’t forget to regularly replace disposable tools like emery boards. There’s no reason to continue using a tattered tool when it’s so easy to rotate in a new one for a few bucks.

6. Protect your nails with a base coat.

Painting your nails at home is no excuse to cut corners by skipping the base coat. Dr. Prystowsky points out that this step not only protects the nail from being stained by the polish, but also helps the color look more saturated and opaque with just one coat. And if you really want to take things to the next level, Dr. Shamban suggests adding a coat of clear gloss between each layer to add extra shine and protection.

7. Use a top coat to prevent nail chips.

Don’t think you’re squirming your way out of using top coat, either. This step is just as important, as the top coat seals in the polish’s color and adds a much-needed gloss finish to your digits. Dr. Prystowsky recommends adding another top coat layer every three days to decrease chipping, so you’ll get the most out of your manicure. Seriously, what’s the point of spending all that time painting your nails if it only lasts a day?

8. Wear gloves when doing dishes

Whenever you’re cleaning with harsh chemicals, gardening, or doing anything that involves soaking or dirtying your hands, Dr. Prystowsky insists that you wear rubber, vinyl, nitrile, or plastic gloves — some of which have a cotton liner. Cleaning dishes in hot, soapy water without gloves can weaken the nails, while getting them caked with dirt from gardening will require a level of cleaning that you will want to avoid.

Similarly, when weather is chilly, remember to wear a pair of mittens or gloves so that the cold air and wind don’t undo the hard work you did moisturizing, leaving you with dry, flaky, scaly skin.

9. Load up on protein-rich food.

Your fingernails are made of a protein called keratin, so just as with the clarity of your skin or the shine of your hair, you can improve your nails by tweaking your diet. Falcone advises adding vitamins and supplements like biotin, Vitamin E, and fish oil to your daily regimen, while Dr. Palmer recommends protein-rich foods like beans, fish, and nuts. The one thing every expert agrees on: Once you discover the combination that works for you, you’ll be rewarded with stronger, clearer nails.

10. Always moisturize your hands and nails.

You wouldn’t go to sleep without moisturizing your face, so why should your nails be any different? Nail artist and expert Holly Falcone likes to use a mix of almond and avocado oils to keep cuticles and nails hydrated while she gets some shut-eye, but any nutrient-rich oil or moisturizer will do. In a pinch, you can even use a dab of lip balm.

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