When nail health suffers, the first sign is generally brittle nails that flake and split. Your nails should be supple and strong and free from discolorations or pitting. Strengthening your nails takes some attention to daily and weekly nail maintenance, but over time will leave you with gorgeous nails that grow long and strong.
Pay attention to your internal health
In order to have healthy nails, you have to be healthy overall. When your health suffers, your hair, skin and nails tend to be among the first areas to suffer. The factors that directly affect nail health are your hydration, vitamin intake and dietary intake of protein.
Ensuring good nail health may be as simple as drinking at least the recommended amount of water every day. Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, and consider limiting nicotine. Take a high-quality multivitamin every day. An additional biotin supplement helps with nail strength and growth rate, or you can get a vitamin that’s specifically for nails that already includes extra biotin. Make sure you get the recommended amount of lean protein in your diet every day.
Avoid applying harsh chemicals
The worst things you can do for your nail health are also the things that many people do in the name of nail health. Harsh chemicals include nail polish, nail polish remover, and adhesives that are used on artificial nails. Household cleaning chemicals will also inflict some damage on your nails.
If you use nail polish, be aware that you’re regularly exposing your nails to harmful elements. You’re also cutting off oxygen from the nail, and possibly parts of the cuticle as well. Try to limit your applications of polish or artificial nails, and try to allow at least 24 hours between applications. Overusing these chemicals will often cause the unattractive yellowing and splitting that you may be trying to cover up.
Protect your nails from the elements
Nails are made from proteins, and are therefore prone to damage from anything that would also damage skin. This includes temperature extremes, frequently wetting and drying, and other such challenging conditions. Wear gloves while outside in cold weather or while doing household chores that involve water and/or cleaners. Try not to soak your nails in a bathtub, and wash your hands thoroughly after swimming in a chlorinated pool.
Daily nail care
Nails need moisture, and lots of it. Apply a high-quality hand lotion or cream several times per day, preferably after every time you bathe or wash your hands. Take care to massage it into your nails and cuticles. If you have cracks above the quick or hangnails, trim them immediately with clean, sharp nail scissors.
Routine nail maintenance
At least once a week, spend 15 minutes with your nails to ensure they’re healthy and strong. Use a cuticle remover to soften the cuticles enough to push them back if you feel they need it, but do not cut them. Cut cuticles are prone to infection both in the cuticle itself and in the nail bed that’s no longer protected by a cuticle. Trim your nails to the desired length, and carefully file the cut ends smooth. This will help ensure that you don’t get torn or broken nails, while also giving you the chance to carefully inspect the nails for abnormalities that could indicate an infection or health issue.