Healthy nails are smooth, strong, and shiny. Happily, you can maintain beautiful natural nails without spending tons of money at the salon for manicures and treatments. Instead, take an active role in caring for your nails naturally at home. Hydration, protection, hygiene, and diet are key. It’s also helpful to avoid habits that negatively impact nail and cuticle health.
Step one in maintaining healthy nails is keeping them bacteria-free. Wash your hands and nails with anti-bacterial soap and water. Gently scrub beneath your nails with a nail brush or toothbrush to remove dirt and germs. Do this at least once a day. Short periodic soaking sessions in room-temperature water mixed with sea salt can strengthen brittle nails.
Apply a nail-strengthening conditioner once your tips are clean and dry—opt for treatments with natural ingredients.
Moisturizing helps prevent dry, brittle nails that crack and break. Daily topical applications of hand cream, ointments, petroleum jelly, or vitamin E help keep your nails hydrated. You can also perform periodic deep treatments. Soak your nails in a light oil twice a month for lasting results.
Overnight therapies can also help repair damaged nails. Apply the moisturizer before bed and wear cotton gloves while sleeping. Avoid products that contain fragrances or other harsh chemicals to prevent irritation to the skin around your nails.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage the proteins in your nails, but sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 can help, especially when your hands will be exposed to the harsh sun for long periods. Overexposure to water also has drying effects, so wear gloves when cleaning, doing dishes, or washing your car.
You should also avoid harsh chemicals, such as nail polish removers that contain acetone. Using them can dry out your nails and lead to breakage.
Eating right helps keep your nails strong and healthy. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet, as these foods are rich in vitamins and minerals essential for nail health. Also, limit your intake of sugary or high-salt snacks, as these can lead to nutritional deficiencies that can weaken your nails.
Drinking at least eight glasses of water daily is vital for overall health, and it's essential in avoiding dry, brittle nails and cracked cuticles.
Smoking is detrimental to your health, and it's especially harmful to your nails. The nicotine in cigarettes can reduce blood flow to your fingers and toes, making nails more susceptible to infection and slowing down healing if they are damaged. Smoking also causes unsightly, yellow-stained nails.
If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your nail health. Check with your doctor about supplementing your diet with vitamin B12 to recover nail strength.
Wear gloves to protect your hands and nails from exposure if you regularly work with harsh chemicals. In addition, limit exposure to household cleaners and other chemicals by using natural alternatives whenever possible. Many nail polishes and removers contain harmful chemicals. Watch out for formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and toluene.
Trim your nails to avoid snags and tears, which can lead to larger rips and other damage. Start with a trim, then shape them as you prefer. Use a clean nail file or emery board to file your nails and a gentle motion to prevent damage. Hold the file at a 45-degree angle and move it in one direction only.
A base coat protects nails from staining and provides a smooth surface for strong polish adherence. That treatment also extends the life of your manicure, but let your base coat dry completely before applying polish. Finish your manicure with a quality top coat. It delivers an attractive finish and prevents polish chipping. Both matte and glossy top coats are suitable options.
Cuticle care is critical, as the tissue is delicate and easily damaged. Soak your nails in warm water for five minutes to soften your cuticles. Apply a generous amount of hand cream or lotion to your hands and work it into your cuticles. Olive, almond, and coconut oils are also excellent options.
Avoid pushing your cuticles back. Though common, this practice can limit the purpose of cuticles: preventing germs and bacteria from entering your body. Fight the urge to cut, bite, or pick at your cuticles, which increases the risk of infection.
Many people engage in habits that are damaging to their nails. Learn to recognize these behaviors to avoid them or minimize their impact.