If you are the sort of person who can grow your nails to a length that has people asking whether or not they are real, just know that you are blessed. For the average person, growing your nails can seem like quite an impossible task. Take me, for instance. With what can only be described as teeny-tiny nail beds, my nails will always appear short at first glance. Plus, without a strong grounding for any sort of growth, they’re prone to snapping, snagging and breaking.
Usually, I try to make time for a manicure around once a month. After a professional shape and tidy and once I have gel colour applied, my nails feel impossibly strong, like nothing could possibly break them. In fact, it’s when I have had a manicure that my nails are able to grow their healthiest. It makes sense, therefore, that the last few weeks have taken a toll on my nails.
Without any hope of a salon appointment, and with my below-par at-home mani skills, it’s safe to say my nails aren’t looking their best. While some are brittle and snapping left, right and centre, others are paper-thin, flimsy and weak. So without a nail technician in sight, I thought it was about time I tried to do something about it. In a bid to improve nail health far and wide during these trying times, I reached out to those in the know to find out exactly what is that’s causing my nails to play up.
It turns out weak nails occur for many reasons, but the outcome is almost always the same. “Nails are made up of three visual layers of skeletal cells that are held together by oil and moisture to make them strong from within,” explains Mavala’s nail expert, Lynn Gray. When nails start to flake, become weak and break, this is usually because there is not enough oil or moisture in the nail.
So what can be done? Keep scrolling for all of top tips that experts guarantee will help strengthen your nails and stop breakage.
Seeing as we’re coming into summer, this might seem a little odd. However, I’m not talking woolly gloves (or even latex ones for that matter). Experts say that, seeing as we’re spending more and more time at home, chances are we’re doing more domestic things with our hands. “Having your hands in water a lot, gardening and even using chemicals (like cleaning products) without gloves can all have an effect on nail health,” says Belinda Price, an OPI educator. So if you have found yourself cleaning more than usual, trust me when I say it’s time to hook out those rubber gloves if you want to protect your nails.
While I understand the perils of being without a precious gel manicure or acrylics all too well, experts urge that now is the time to take a break, especially if your nails are weak. Having weak nails not only means that your at-home manicures won’t last as long, but it also means they come with a bunch of other baggage.
“For stronger nails, definitely avoid having gel or acrylic manicures. Acetone [the chemical used in removers for such things] dries the nails out, so use a non-acetone remover for normal polish,” says Gray. Not only will acetone dry the nail, but often with gel nails, peeling can occur which can cause serious damage. And while we strongly advise you never pick at lifted gels, the temptation is always there.
You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: Cuticle oil makes all of the difference. I get that it can be a bit fiddly and annoying to use, but since I have positioned a little bottle on my nightstand, I have applied it religiously every night, and my nails look so much better for it. “You should use a specialised nail treatment to keep them healthy. Go for something that nourishes nails, counteracts dryness and helps restore elasticity to the nail plate to strengthen,” advises Gray.
I hate filing my nails. The minute that file touches my nail, it sends a shiver down my spine that makes me want to run far away. Therefore, I was understandably gutted when I discovered that filing is key if you want to maintain strong, healthy nails. “Keep weak nails short to start with,” says Price. “Square nails are stronger than round, but many find that rounder styles catch less. I advise a happy medium with a squoval shape. Avoid pointed nails, as they have less structure, so less strength.”
And besides maintaining a strengthening shape, keeping a file on hand also helps defend nails against total destruction. “Always carry a nail file on you to smooth out any little tears in the nail before they completely tear away,” says Gray.
Finally, if your nails still need an extra helping hand, there are specific products you can invest in that are sure to improve their condition. “If you want to strengthen your nails, you need to look after them with a nail hardener. Give yourself a mini manicure once a week. Lightly buff the nails and then treat them with a hardener to give instant moisture,” says Gray.