Everyday activities can cause chipping and breaking when your nails are weak. And dry, brittle nails don’t look or stay polished, ruining an otherwise polished look. It’s pretty clear – if you want to look your best, you want to pay attention to the details and make sure your nails appear strong and well cared for.
Give your nails a helping hand with these tips to help them look healthy:
1. Supplement With Biotin
Nails are made up of keratin, the same protein that makes up hair…and horse hooves! Veterinarians have long been supplementing horses with the B vitamin biotin to strengthen their hooves, and similar benefits can be seen in people and their nails. Multiple studies over the years have found that taking biotin can help strengthen and improve the appearance of brittle nails, with one showing that taking 2.5 mg daily helped to increase nail thickness by 25%.
You might also consider supplementing with 10-30 mg of silicon daily since it’s also been shown to improve nail strength.
Hand cream isn’t just good for hands, it’s good for nails, too. Dry nails are prone to chipping, cracking, peeling, and even breaking, but moisturizing the nail bed and the cuticle with a thick, rich cream will help improve the way they look. An added benefit is that well-hydrated hands and cuticles will also help to prevent unsightly and painful hangnails.
If your job requires you to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often, make sure you moisturize well afterwards to prevent drying out.
3. Care for Your Cuticles
According to dermatologists, cutting your cuticles is a major no-no. That extra little bit of skin acts as a protective barrier for the nail’s growth matrix (the upper part of the nail that grows), so cutting it makes it susceptible to irritation or infection. Cuticle cutting can also lead to nail problems like ridges, white spots and lines.
If you want nails to look longer, instead of cutting your cuticles, keep them well moisturized and gently push them back with a wooden orange stick.
4. Avoid Acetone
This common ingredient in nail polish remover may do more harm than good. Because it acts as a paint stripper, it dries out the nail bed and causes nails to become brittle. And as a solvent, it can make the pigment in nail polish migrate and leach, which can in turn cause yellowing of the nails. Instead, look for a non-acetone nail polish remover, and remember to wash up and moisturize after taking the polish off.
5. Take a Break
While updating your mani-pedi regularly might seem like the best way to keep your nails looking great, it turns out taking a breather might be good for nail health. Nails can actually absorb the nail polish we apply, and by keeping polish on too long, the pigment can penetrate the top layers of our nails and dry them out. Even worse – this can lead to yeast, bacteria, mold, and mildew growth underneath. Having bare nails for a few days at a time allows them to “breathe” and stay healthy.
6. Exercise Chemical Caution
Most cleaning products – soap, dishwashing liquid, detergent, and even shampoo – contain ingredients meant to strip oils, so it’s no surprise that they’ll dry out and weaken your nails. Add hot water to that equation and it’ll happen even faster. When doing housework or laundry, wear rubber gloves to protect your hands and minimize contact with harsh chemicals. If you think a particular product like your soap or shampoo might be causing excessive dryness, try using a gentler formula.
Many nail polishes are also full of chemicals like formaldehyde and phthalates that can be harmful, not just to nails but to your health as well. Look for products that are labeled “5-free,” meaning they are free of formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, dibutyl phthalates, amd camphor. These will be better for your nails and better for you.
The same rules apply for nails on the hands and feet, so take good care of yourself from fingertip to toe!
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.