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How to Strengthen Nails, According to Dermatologists

If you’ve recently removed gels or acrylics, you might be wondering how to strengthen nails. I can definitely relate: After removing my beloved gel tips, I was shocked to see how weak and brittle my nails became underneath and horrified at how easily they broke.

If you’re in a similar boat, don’t fret. Your nails are not beyond repair. In fact, I’m pleased to report that after making some lifestyle changes and prioritising my nails’ well-being, they’ve nearly been restored to their former glory. It just takes some time and TLC. And yes, anyone can do it.

“Just like we deep-condition and treat dry, over-processed hair, it is crucial to take care of the nail and cuticle,” Dana Stern, MD, a board-certified dermatologist who specialises in nail health, says “Take a break from enhancements when your nails need a break, and keep nails shorter: Shorter nails are less prone to breakage and catching.”

As for what causes weak nails in the first place? According to Dr. Stern, there are two categories of nail damage. “The first category are the factors that are difficult to control and include genetics, ageing, and certain medical conditions,” she explains, and so some of this damage is simply unavoidable. That said, the second and more common category consists of environmental factors, meaning they’re easier to control and can make a significant impact on the problem once adjusted.

Looking for ways to give your nail some TLC? Read on for more on how to strengthen nails, as well as what to prevent—and what to add to your routine—to promote and maintain their fortitude.

Wear gloves when working with water

If you think of nails in the same way you would hair, it’s not unlike getting a much-needed trim when your hair is damaged. Both hair and nails react poorly to similar external factors as well, like too much water, especially when the water is hot. 

“Nails are extremely absorptive of water, even more so than skin!” Dr. Stern says. “When the nail absorbs water, it puts tremendous strain on the nail cells, or onychocytes, which can lead to peeling, breakage, and weakening.” She advises wearing gloves when washing dishes, working with water, or doing manual labor.

Use glass nail files

While typical cardboard emery boards tend to be the file of choice due to their affordability and how quickly they work, they’re actually not the best choice when it comes to nail health. 

“Emery boards have microscopic openings and splits at the tip of the nail that lead to peeling, onychoschizia, and cracks,” Dr. Stern explains. “I prefer glass or crystal nail files over cardboard emery boards because they don’t cause microscopic openings or tears and instead create a clean edge at the nail.” Try the Margaret Dabbs London Crystal Nail File or OPI’s Crystal Nail File.

Opt for non-acetone polish remover

While letting your nails breathe is essential for their well-being, how you remove your polish matters too. 

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