7 Simple Ways to Treat Damaged Nails

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Your nails need love, and when they don’t get the special attention they deserve, they can end up brittle, ragged, split or cracked. We asked the experts for some tips to help you repair and treat damaged nails right at home.

Don’t Peel Off Polish
“The number-one thing you should avoid doing to your nails is peeling off your gel manicure. Tearing off polish can result in stripping of your nail, leaving it flaky and chipped,” says celebrity makeup and nail artist Blondie. The proper way to remove gel polish is to soak a cotton ball in acetone and place it directly on top of your nail. Wrap each finger with a small piece of foil and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, and the gel polish should slide right off.

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The Olive Oil Dip
Once the damage is done, you’ll need to do damage control to get your nails back to a healthy place. “Dip your fingertips into olive oil—believe it or not it works! Soak them for 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse. Do this every day until you see results. It helps replenish dry, brittle nails,” says Los Angeles nail artist Sarah Chue. Olive oil penetrates the skin to help repair, soften and condition your nails and cuticles.

Take Your Vitamins
Weak nails need nourishment from the inside out. “A lack of calcium and vitamins A and C can be the cause of brittle nails,” says Chue. “Ingesting foods that are high in biotin or taking a daily multivitamin that contains vitamin A will help your nails grow stronger.”

Care for Your Cuticles
Hydrate your cuticles to protect your growing nails underneath by using a cuticle cream or oil. “Use a daily nourishing cuticle treatment rich in vitamin E, such as CND Solar Oil ($13) or Nails Inc. Vitamin E Oil Slick Pen ($10), to hydrate the skin around your nails and nail plates,” says Norwalk, CT, dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD. “I use Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil ($20) which contains vitamin E and coconut oil to rehydrate dry cuticles,” adds Chue.

Wash Carefully
Avoid using hot water and hand soap that dries out your skin. “Look for healthy, natural antibacterial alternatives like eucalyptus or tea tree oil to wash your hands and nails and finish with moisture-enriching hand cream,” recommends Blondie.

A Good Topcoat
Topcoats do more for your nails than just keeping your polish from chipping, they also protect your nails from future damage. “I tell people to use a good topcoat such as Essie Millionails ($10) or Deborah Lippmann Hard Rock Hydrating Hardener ($20),” says Dr. Mraz Robinson. “A good topcoat will help protect your nail plates and prevent future splitting and cracking.” 

Take a Holiday
The very best thing you can do to help treat your damaged nails is to give them a break. “Give your nails at least a two-day break in between nail treatments to allow them to breath. Apply OPI Nail Envy ($18) for extra strength,” says Blondie. The break can be anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, but your nails will thank you for it. “It may not be what everyone wants to hear, but if you give your nails a break from all the polish, gels and artificial nails and just let them breathe, it will do wonders for your nails,” adds Chue. 

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