You already know that your skin benefits from routine hydration, but nails require moisture too. “Nails become dry and brittle when they lack moisture,” says Jeannette Graf, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York. Without proper moisture from lotion or an oil, they’re more prone to breaking. “Many things can strip the moisture in fingernails, but the common culprit is washing and drying the hands multiple times a day and frequently using detergents, household cleaners, and nail polish remover.” Keep a hand lotion or cuticle oil—such as OPI ProSpa Nail & Cuticle Oil To-Go ($10; ulta.com) in your car, purse, or at your desk.
Raise your hand if you’ve used your nails to pry something open or pick at something. Many of us are guilty of using our nails as makeshift tools, but if your endgame is to grow your nails, then this is a no-no. “If you’re really rough on your nails—like you use them to open boxes—they’ll likely break,” says Brittney Boyce, celebrity nail artist and founder of Nails of LA.
Want to go one step further to protect your nails? “When you’re cleaning and doing house chores, consider wearing gloves,” says Boyce. “Wearing gloves when you wash dishes can actually help prolong your manicure too.”
Though we might not consider the link between our diet and nail health, what we eat is a potential contributing factor to whether our nails grow faster and stronger. “A poor diet definitely contributes to unhealthy nails,” says Dr. Graf. Focus on whole fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, leafy greens, and healthy fats via eggs, lean meats, and salmon.
You can level-up your nail nutrition game with a nail supplement. “Taking 5000 UCG per day of biotin helps strengthen nails as well as promote nail growth,” says Dr. Graf. Boyce has seen this in action at her nail salon. “Clients who take any type of biotin supplements tend to have nails that grow really fast,” she says.?
Both Dr. Graf and Boyce recommend using Orly’s Breathable Calcium Boost ($13; target.com), a topical strengthener that you apply the same way you do nail polish. “It has vegan calcium, vitamin B5, vitamin C, and argan oil, which help nourish dry, damaged, and thin nails.” It also has antioxidants to nourish the nail, notes Boyce.
”Improperly filed nails can also cause nails to break easily,” notes Boyce. “They can either be jagged and snag things easily, or they’re filed at an angle that causes them to be too thin. Use a glass file, if possible, for a very smooth file.” Try the OPI Crystal Nail File ($12; ulta.com).
If you won the genetic lottery and can grow super-long nails without them easily chipping or breaking, then consider yourself quite lucky. “Everyone has a different happy length, which is the longest the nails grow before they start affecting your way of life,” says Boyce. “Keep your nails at their happy length.”
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There’s an ongoing debate over whether gel manicures are good or bad for your nails, but prioritizing a nourishing gel polish seems to help nails stay long. “I personally think a layer of quality gel properly applied can create a protective coat over your natural nails,” says Boyce. “It also gives a dull edge so you’re less likely to scratch things.” However, removal needs to be done properly and, ideally, by a pro. Peeling them off at home can be extremely damaging. Boyce adds, “When they start to lift, either go to the nail salon to get them re-filled or completely removed, or get a removal kit with acetone, cotton, and foil to remove them properly.”?