Everyone knows the importance of making a good first impression. When you meet someone new for the first time, it’s instinctive to make eye contact, smile and shake hands. Hopefully, you encounter a firm handshake and aren’t grazed by an unclipped nail, an open wound or jagged cuticle, but hey, it happens. No matter which side of the handshake you’re on, odds are if it’s a rough one, you leave the encounter with a strong desire to head to your nearest nail salon.
But wait—this might not be the best course of action. In fact, it’s possible that too many manicures might be the source of damaged nails in the first place. So instead of masking any unsightly or uncomfortable nail deficiencies with a sleek coat of lacquer, take a moment to pause and reflect on how to fix the problem, not just cover it up.
Unfortunately, there are lots of ways nails can become damaged. Whether it’s from overuse of gel or acrylic nail techniques, vitamin deficiencies, direct injuries to the nail bed or bad nail-biting habits, it’s actually pretty easy for nails to fall into states of disrepair.
Fortunately, there are also several simple ways to get your nails back into tip-top shape, and who better to advise us on these tactics than professionals who deal with nail concerns every day? We reached out to editorial manicurist Jin Soon Choi, Olive & June founder and CEO Sarah Gibson Tuttle, celebrity crystal manicurist Mazz Hanna and Varnish Lane co-founder Lauren Dunne to get the best tips, tricks, and treatments for repairing damaged nails.
So your nails are officially damaged—now what? First, completely remove whatever is currently on your nails. If that’s regular nail polish, you can DIY with your go-to remover and cotton balls. If you have gel or acrylics, it’s time to make an appointment with a professional. “Proper removal won’t damage your nails—it just takes patience,” says Tuttle. “Definitely avoid picking your gels off, because that will hurt your nails and cause further damage,” she explains.
If you're sporting an old set of acrylics, filing off parts before soaking is not a bad idea, according to Choi. "Some technicians use an electronic file to remove it, which is fast but should be done carefully to avoid filing the real nail off," she counsels—and don't try this at home.
While you might be tempted to apply a fresh coat of paint, all of our experts strongly advise against it. Commit to going bare and giving your hands some TLC. “I know people don’t like to hear it, but the more time off from gels and acrylics, the better the health of your nails,” says Choi. Use this as an opportunity to focus on cuticle care—seriously. All of our experts agree that applying a daily cuticle serum will help your nails bounce back quicker and stronger than ever.
"Wearing acrylics, gels or dip powders for several weeks can seriously dry out nails, making them brittle and susceptible to breaks after removal," explains Dunne. Margaret Dabbs' Nail & Cuticle Serum will moisturise and help strengthen regrowth.
Depending on how damaged your nails are, it can take up to three months to completely grow them out. Once you’ve given your nail beds enough breathing room, avoid further damage to areas that are still sensitive by using non-toxic protecting and strengthening products.
Sometimes, the issues that cause damaged nails are more than skin-deep. Fortunately, the rise in the wellness industry has helped people to become more informed about the vitamins, minerals and supplements essential to their health. While each of the below products was recommended by our panel of experts, it’s important to always check with your doctor before adding something new to your personal regimen.
"I love the idea of taking supplements for promoting healthy nails. In fact, I do so myself," says Choi. She also recommends eating foods that contain biotin and collagen such as salmon, avocados, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, citrus, nuts and seeds.
Resist the urge to cut your cuticles. Dunne and her team always recommend that clients just have their cuticles pushed back and only dead skin removed. "Your cuticles are there to help protect the new healthy nails that are growing back," she explains.
During the regrowth process, good, healthy nail habits are key. "Remember no picking and no biting," says Tuttle. This Swiss formula has a bitter-yet-harmless taste that keeps hands out of the mouth and helps prevent the spread of germs.
Last but not least, Dunne encourages all Varnish Lane clients to wear gloves when doing dishes or cleaning around the house. "Extended exposure to water, moisture and cleaning products will dry out your nails even more and extend the recovery process," she tells us. We're on it!