16 Tips For Growing Stronger, Healthier Nails

It's time to get your nails into tip-top shape!

Raise your hands (or maybe not) if you've broken a nail in the past few days. Or noticed that your fingernails are starting to fray and split way too easily. We've got enough snags in our cashmere sweaters and runs up and down our black tights to suggest our nails are anything but smooth.

Frustrated with how weak our nails have become and beyond baffled over our manicures barely making it to the five-day mark, we asked three nail pros to spill their secrets on growing strong and healthy nails.

Scroll down below for 16 nail care tips, including the truth about nail strengtheners, what you should do before shoving your hands under the salon's LED lamp and why you'd want to think twice before unhooking a trapped zipper with your fingernail.

Stop biting and picking your nails.
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"Biting nails or being too aggressive when cleaning out under the nail can create stress fractures on the corners of the edges and eventually cause breaks," says Kimmie Kyees. "Also, rubbing the top of your nails -- it's a nervous habit some women have and it may cause severe ridges in the top of the nail plate."
Always wear rubber gloves while cleaning.
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Kyees advises women to use rubber gloves when they are using household cleaners to provide a barrier of protection against harmful chemicals that break the nail down.
Go easy on the water.
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"When you are constantly in water, your nails will become weaker when they are actually wet and tear more easily," explains Kyees. Nails are porous and absorb water, so they will need to 'dry' a little after being submerged in water or doing cleaning or bathing."
Weekly nail maintenance ensures long term health.
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"Regular manicures, which includes filing the nails and cuticle care, is crucial," according to Deborah Lippmann. "Moisturizing cuticles daily is also a key component to maintaining healthy, beautiful nails."
Slip into a pair of warm winter gloves before braving the cold.
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"Winter temperatures can seriously dry and deteriorate your nails, so make sure to wear gloves when you go out," says Jin Soon Choi.
Stay away from hazardous and harsh chemicals.
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We know what inhaling toxic nail polishes containing formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and toluene can potentially lead to. Choi warns against nail treatments that contain these materials as they will make achieving strong, healthy nails difficult.
Apply sunscreen before going under a UV or LED light.
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You can never be too safe! So before putting your hands under a UV or LED light, Lippmann recommends smoothing on a broad spectrum sunscreen beforehand to protect nails and hands.
Don't forget to take your vitamins.
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"As far as vitamins, a biotin supplement is great for nails," says Lippmann. "Products, both treatment and lacquer, that include biotin are also very helpful so that you can apply it directly on the nail." Kyees' topical nail care solution: vitamin E gel capsules. She explains, "Use a pin and pop a hole into the capsule, then apply it directly to your nails."
Give your cuticles a much-needed massage.
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"The actual nail forms just below the cuticle, and when you massage the cuticle you bring blood into that area of the nail which promotes healthier nail growth," says Lippmann. "It’s more about the action of massaging and getting the blood flowing than an actual treatment."
Smooth away dryness with a moisturizing hand cream.
Lippmann believes that you should always hydrate after washing your hands. "You would never wash your face without using a moisturizer, and you should treat your hands the same way."
Keep a nail file handy for emergencies.
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"It’s so important to keep a nail file with you at all times to smooth any rough edge and prevent further damage," says Lippmann.
Load up your meals with protein.
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A well-balanced diet and drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated are just a few of the simple ways Lippmann believes will promote healthier nails. Choi echos this advice and calls out protein-rich foods like fish that help to build nail strength.
Never use your nails as a tool.
"When using your fingernails to open boxes, letters or as any last-minute tool, you risk bending the nail back, among other things," says Lippmann. "The white area, referred to as the stress area, will eventually weaken and break. A lot of us are unaware of how we use our hands, so make a conscious effort to pay close attention to how you use your nails."
Base and top coats are manicure essentials.
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According to Lippmann, wearing polish protects the nails and keeps them in better condition. "Never skip base coat or top coat, especially base coat," she adds.
Nail strengtheners really do work.
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"Nail strengtheners are composed mainly of keratin protein, which is what the nail is mostly made up of," explains Kyees. "The strengthener bonds the molecules in the nails together creating a stronger nail. But when you discontinue use of the products all together the nail will return to its normal composition." Choi recommends polishing on a nail strengthener every three days for the best and long-lasting results.
Swipe away that old nail polish.
We've all been guilty of wearing a manicure out to this unflattering point. To prevent peeling away at chipped nail polish, Choi suggests removing one week after.

This piece was originally published on January 18, 2013.

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