Winter has a way of drying out everything from your eyes to your hair to your skin, and sadly, nails aren't spared. As much as we hate to say it, if you're taking off your nail polish and finding split, dry, or broken nails underneath, it sounds like you have a problem. But there are some habits you can break that will help with your overall nail health -- which, of course, contributes overall to a happier and healthier you.
So what do you have to do to get the thick, long, and strong nails of your dreams? First, stop making these common mistakes:
- Not properly cleaning them. Celebrity nail tech Elle has worked with clients like Jennifer Lopez, Blake Lively, and Heidi Klum, and she says one of the biggest mistakes she sees people making is neglecting the cleaning part of their home manicures.
"Two of my most important steps before doing a manicure are to have my clients wash their nails with antibacterial soap and water to restore their nails to the proper pH level," Elle says. "Most people skip this step altogether and rarely give nails a detailed wash after taking off old polish, which can make nails weak and feel brittle."
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- Filing incorrectly. "Filing your nails in the wrong direction with the wrong file can cause your nails to split," Elle says. "Glass files force you to file in the correct direction and are also not too harsh in grit, which, in turn, will prevent your nails from splitting."
- Cutting out cuticle oil. Elle says cuticle oil is a big must that most people ignore.
"Nails are porous and act like a sponge, so when there is no moisture, they will shrink and crack," she explains.
- Cutting your own cuticles. "I would also suggest not cutting your own cuticles," Elle says. "Leave that to your manicurist -- they should know the difference between how to remove cuticles and not the living tissue called eponychium."
The eponychium is the seal that keeps bacteria from creeping in through your skin, Elle explains. Cutting it off can be dangerous, so it's best to leave cuticle work to the professionals.
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- Changing nail polish too frequently. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist, says that switching up your nail color too often is an easy way to ruin your nail health.
"The acetone in the nail polish remover will weaken the nail and dry out the nail plate," Jaliman explains.
- Relying on nail hardeners. "Formaldehyde is found in many nail hardeners," Jaliman says. "It can make the nail too hard and brittle, which will ultimately make it break. Many people are also allergic to this ingredient."
- Picking off nail polish. It might be tempting, especially when your nail polish is already chipping. And it also might sound like a better option than acetone-heavy nail polish removers, but Jaliman says that's not the case.
"Never pick off nail polish -- it weakens the nail plate, just like biting nails," she explains.
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- Letting you body become dehydrated or vitamin deficient. Lauren Dunne, cofounder of DC's Varnish Lane, says that water and multivitamins are the key to keeping nails happy.
"So many women that complain about brittle nails are also quick to admit that they don't get their daily eight glasses of water," Dunne says. "Drinking plenty of water and taking a multivitamin is essential to maintaining hydrated nails and cuticles."
- Clipping and filing dry nails. "I always recommend people avoid using nail clippers and nail files on dry nails at all costs," says Tiffany Barry, founder of vegan nail company Lillian Eve. "While skipping the soak can make nail trimming fast and convenient, clipping dry nails can cause them to split and peel. It's best to allow your nails to soak and soften before clipping or filing."
Image via iStock.com/Ury