Is there anything can you do when your fingernails are breaking and flaking and generally looking pretty, well, flaky? The answer is yes, if you are patient and prepared to invest a bit of time and effort. A good hand care regime doesn’t take too long and will pay dividends in the long run. Having attractive hands and nails can help to improve your confidence and earn you compliments. Remember to treat your hands and nails gently and with respect and they’ll soon start to look good.
How To Repair Your Nails After They've Been Damaged
Weak, damaged nails? Follow these tips to get them back in tip-top condition
Nowadays, I’m seeing lots of ladies with badly damaged nails after having been wearing gels or acrylics for a long period of time. I know they look fab, but the damage they cause massive, which is why I was never taught those techniques, and have never used them. (I’m actually not sure about the fumes from acrylics either, but that’s another subject.)
Of course, having acrylics or gels is not the only way that you can damage your fingernails - I whacked one of mine with a hammer when I was doing some DIY, and it took ages to start growing properly again. And biting your nails can also cause short-term damage.
So what can you do when your nails are in a desperate state?
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- Be patient. It takes between 3 and 6 months for your fingernails to grow, and longer for toe nails - between 6 months and a year. So whatever damage has been done, you aren’t going to repair it overnight. If you are going somewhere special, buy some of the stick on nails and take them off after a couple of days. (Added bonus: they’ll protect your nails a bit too.)
- Be consistent. Whatever you do, it needs to be done regularly, every day, at least once a day, preferably two or three times a day, for a full 6 months. By which time, hopefully, you will have got yourself into a habit that you don’t want to break. (If you ever get to know any hand models, they will tell you that their life is quite restricted by what they have to do, and they take REALLY good care of their hands and nails.)
- As a rule of thumb, no pun intended, if it’s good for your hands, it’s probably good for your nails. The reverse, however, is not necessarily true.
- Make sure that you dry your hands and nails thoroughly whenever you take them out of water. (You should do this, even if you are still wearing gels or acrylics, if you get water underneath them, you can get a very nasty infection.)
- If you can, wear rubber gloves for washing up and other household chores. If you have an allergy, wear cotton gloves inside the rubber ones.
- Whenever you have had your hands in water, and, after you have applied anti-bacterial hand gel, use hand cream. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive in the world, there are some good, less expensive ones around, but make sure you rub it in thoroughly, paying particular attention to the nails and cuticles.
- Two or three times a day (in the morning, last thing before you go to be and during the day) apply a good nail treatment cream or almond oil, if you can use it. (Not too much, it takes a bit of massaging to get it to absorb.) I particularly like Nu Nale cream, and it’s not expensive. I find that it helps to “seal” cracked edges, even if only temporarily. The other benefit of regularly rubbing cream into the nail is that it increases blood flow to the nail, which helps them to grow.
8. I’m a big fan of OPI, and like their Nail Envy - they come in a variety of types now, so hopefully
you can find one to suit your needs. Nails Inc A & E basecoat is good too. Apply according to
the instructions, and re-apply daily or every other day. You can use both of these as a top
coat too, over polish, and they have the added bonus of keeping you polish on for longer,
9. When you file your nails, make sure you use a good quality emery board or file - I like the
crystal files that you can get now, or a diamond file, but whatever you use, be gentle. File
from the sides to the middle, no see-sawing! Don’t file too far down at the sides either,
unless the nail is damaged there: that’s the weakest part of the nail and you want to give it as
much strength as possible.
10. Buff your nails regularly. I like the Nails Inc 4-way buffer which has a file and ridge remover
too. Please note: use ridge removers very sparingly on finger nails, if at all. You are trying to
repair them, not damage them further. I tend to save ridge removers for toenail use, and even
then, only in extreme cases. If you paint your nails, after you’ve buffed them, give them a wipe
over with acetone free remover, so that your base coat will adhere properly. Like rubbing
cream into the nail, buffing stimulates blood flow, and helps them to grow.
11. Soak your nails in warm water with a drop of olive or almond oil once a week, for about five
minutes, and gently push back the cuticle with a hoof stick. Unless you’ve previously had your
cuticles cut, don’t start cutting them. It’s a nightmare to get them to a state where you don’t
have to continue. (Yes, that is the voice of experience speaking!)
12. Personal view: painting nails helps to protect them (many a time I’ve done some damage with
a cheese grater or knife but the polish has protected most of the nail). I have no issue with
using less expensive brands of polish, but, if your nails are already damaged, please ensure
that you use a good quality strengthener, as above.
13. Wear gloves in the winter and a sun block on your hands in the summer - it will help to prevent
age spots, and it’s never too early to try to prevent these things.
14. Eat a balanced diet, ensuring that you eat a sufficient amount of protein. Your nails are made
of protein, so it’s required to build, amongst other things, healthy nails.
15. Treat your nails with respect. Do not use them as can openers, screwdrivers, to flip ring pulls,
16. Remember that certain medications may adversely affect your nails. Just follow the tips above
to help your nails as much as possible.
17. Consider getting regular (non-gel/acrylic) manicures. Your nails will look better, so you’ll feel
more inclined to keep on looking after them properly.
If you follow these tips, your nails will improve. I can’t promise that they will never break again, but they will improve.
As a result of the tip by Wordchazer, I bought some hoof oil, and have been using it for about three months now. I think the smell that she refers to is Wintergreen, although I won't swear to that. I do think it's helped, although I've generally been making more of an effort with my nails. I don't know what I did around the beginning of the year to make my nails so bad, but whatever it was, a bit of TLC has remedied the situation.