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Moisturizing is a well-known secret to healthy skin, but it’s often overlooked in nail care. While dry, brittle nails can be the result of many factors, they’re ultimately a cry for moisture, so consider proper moisture the foundation of your nail care routine.
It’s common practice to cut, push back, or try to get rid of cuticles altogether, but cuticles are not the enemy.
In fact, the cuticle is “the nail’s natural protective seal”
Recommends moisturizing the cuticles with cream or cuticle oil to help protect and strengthen your nails.
You know how soft and bendy nails get after a long bath? Consider this: “The nail is like a sponge. It is 1,000 times more absorptive of water than the skin, for example, and so water can easily diffuse into the nail,” which can lead to brittleness, peeling, and breakage, she says.
This is also why soaking nails before a manicure is bad practice. Not only does this make your nails more vulnerable to infection, according to Dr. Green, but it also doesn’t allow nail polish to adhere as well or last as long.
You should resist the urge to use your nails as replacement tools—no matter how convenient it may be. (There are plenty of other creative ways to open a can of soda.)
It bears repeating: Hydration is the foundation. “Just as you would condition your hair with a leave-in or rich conditioner, I would condition your cuticles as well to promote healthy, growing nails,”
The extreme swings in temperature from going outdoors to indoors can cause additional damage. The shift from a heated home or office to the chilly open air can cause nail cells to contract and expand repetitively, resulting in a weakening between the cells, leading to breakage.
It’s smart to always wear gloves in the winter and, you guessed it moisturize to protect both the skin of your hands and your nails.
Nail polish remover: In the best-case scenario, you would avoid nail polish remover altogether. But since most of us aren’t going to entirely give up the joy of a nice manicure, it’s better to instead use non-acetone removers that contain hydrating oils and ingredients.
Nail brush: Use a gentle nail brush to clean out dirt. Or, for a resourceful alternative, use an extra toothbrush you have lying around.
Nail growth products: Go ahead and pass on these. “So many of the so-called nail treatment or nail growth products on the market are in reality clear nail polishes with marketing additives that have no scientific validity”
If you’re a chronic nail-biter, you know the victory of finally growing your nails out past your fingertips. Healthy habits plus patience pay off in nail care.
But the primary focus should be on figuring out how to strengthen your nails, not solving the puzzle of how to grow nails fast. Stronger nails can lead to longer nails if you practice good nail care, but it all takes time. If you battle brittle nails and constant breakage, it’s smart to keep your nails clipped short until they regain strength; then they’ll have the foundation they need to grow longer.
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