So you’ve made the decision to take off your gel or acrylic nails. Whether it was voluntary or not (thanks COVID-19), it probably feels a bit sad to look down at your naked nails right now.
Not to worry though, taking a break from artificial nails can be beneficial. This is because nail products adhere better to healthier nails versus damaged ones.
Taking good care of your natural nails and cuticles will only benefit you in the future. Here are the top tips that I share with all of my nail clients!
This article was originally published in May 2020. It has since been revised with more relevant and updated information.
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Trim & File Nails Regularly
Just like hair, trimming and filing your nails regularly can help them grow faster and longer.
How does this work? Nail breakages don’t go away or ‘get better’ on their own. If anything, they will only get worse. Trimming nails regularly will remove such imperfections, and discourage more nail disasters in the future.
Start by taking a good look at your nails. What do you see?
For small chips, simply file the area until it’s smooth. For larger ones, clip off the entire portion - you may have to trim the rest of the nail to balance it out.
The only way to battle breakage is to cut it off. Sad - yes, but you’ll thank yourself later. Leaving a crack untreated can lead to it ripping off as it gets caught on stuff (not fun!).
Similar to cracks, you’ll want to cut off all affected areas. If you can see your nail splitting into layers, it’s beyond saving. The best you can do is to trim it off.
Now that you’ve removed any of the above, let’s talk about the next important tip.
Proper Nail Shape
When it comes to growing healthy natural nails, the nail shape is so important. There’s really no point in following the other steps if you’re going to ignore this one. Just think of it as the foundation of getting better nails!
So, what is the nail shape that is least likely to break?
I typically suggest round or oval shapes for clients trying to grow out their natural nails. Squoval is also an option, but I always make sure the the free edge and corners are well rounded.
Shapes with corners or points can break easily, so stay away from them!
Nails cut as short as possible with a round edge are the best choice if you want stronger, healthier nails."
Dr. Ava Shamban, Cosmetic Dermatologist & Author of Heal Your Skin
Keeping nails on the shorter side right after gel or acrylic removal also helps. Don’t worry though, after a few trims (and proper care), you’ll notice that your nail condition will improve. At this point you can try to grow them out a bit longer.
Avoid Biting & Picking Nails
Biting and picking at your nails creates damage to the nail bed. And as you’ve read earlier (in the first step), you’ll know that this means you’ll have to clip it off and start over. Doing this continuously means that your nails will never grow out.
The other major downside of biting your nails is that you’re transferring germs from your hands to your mouth and vice versa .
For starters, biting your nails can raise the risk of catching a cold or other illness because you're putting your unwashed hands in your mouth. It can also raise the risk of paronychia, or infection of the skin surrounding the nail."
Rochelle Torgerson, M.D., Ph.D., Dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic
Besides avoiding the coronavirus, keeping your hands away from your face is also helpful for maintaining healthy nails!
Use Gloves To Protect Your Nails & Hands
This is a tip I give to all of my clients, with gel or natural nails.
It was actually my mom who really proved to me that this tip really works! She does a lot of housework (thanks mom!) and I can tell if she’s been wearing her gloves or not with 100% accuracy.
So we’re not just talking about wearing gloves to wash the dishes. We’re also including all types of housework and even cooking. During most of these activities, your nails get wet and dry over and over. When this happens, your nails become more dry and brittle, making them more likely to break . Not to mention, detergents and chemicals from cleaning products are especially harsh on the skin and nails.
Gloves can also work as a shield to protect your nails from bumping into things while you’re doing things like scrubbing a pot or cleaning out your bathtub.
Wearing gloves when performing household chores that involve getting the hands wet is very helpful in preventing brittle nails."
The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD)
Use Nail Strengtheners For An Extra Boost
My gel nail removal services always include the application of a nail strengthener.
Why? Mostly because nails feel particularly vulnerable right after gel nail removal, but also because it’s pretty!
Yes, bare nails can look sad, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can add a bit of shine with a clear product like OPI’s Nail Envy.
If you’re dying for some colour or coverage, I’d highly recommend OPI’s Gel Break System. This is a 3 step system (base, colour and topcoat) that is designed for people taking a break from gel polish.
I use both of these products at my salon and my clients love them!
Use Cuticle Oil Or Creams Religiously
My clients know and love this step so well. Not only because it’s relaxing but also because it makes their hands and nails look super healthy.
Dry, brittle nails are more prone to breaking, and by now, we know what that means.
Don’t have cuticle oil or cream on hand? You can probably use something that you already have at home. I personally love using coconut oil (it smells so nice!) but a lotion or cream will also work. Simply massage your preferred moisturizer into your nails and cuticles at least once a day - I prefer right before bed so it'll stay on for longer.
How do I know if my nails are healthy?
According to the Mayo Clinic , healthy nails should have the following features:
If you notice any sudden changes in any of the above, it's best to consult a doctor or dermatologist.
What do unhealthy nails look like?
Sometimes physical injuries, like jamming your fingernail, are temporary and will grow out. However, if you notice an abnormal change, it would be in your best interest to see your doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic , here are some signs to look out for:
Why are my nails so weak and thin?
Bad gel nail application and removal can cause nails to become weak and thin. This could happen for several reasons:
- 1Nail plate is over filed
- 2Nails are dehydrated from acetone (used for removal)
- 3Hard tools such as metal cuticle pushes are used to scrape off gel
Certain medical conditions can also affect your nail health. If this is a concern, it's best to contact your doctor.
How can I get healthy nails naturally?
The steps outlined in this article are a good start to getting healthy nails naturally. Here are the 6 tips:
Does coconut oil help nails?
Yes! If you don't have cuticle oil at home, using coconut oil will do the trick. Simply massage the oil into your nails and cuticles at least once a day. Doing this can help prevent dry and brittle nails, which are prone to breakage.
Do gel nails ruin your nails?
No, gel nail products don't ruin nails. It's bad application and removal techniques that do.
Make sure you find a nail technician that is properly trained and cares about your nail health.
How long should you wait between gel manicures?
It's best to consult a well trained nail technician. They will be able to take a look at your nails and give you their best recommendations.
If gel nails are applied and removed properly, and the nails remain healthy, there's no need to take breaks. However, if bad technique is used, nails are damaged or the client has a medical condition that affects their nails, taking breaks may be a good idea.
So there you have it - 6 simple ways of taking care of your nails. Follow these steps and you’ll see your nails transform in a matter of weeks.
When you're ready to get your nails done again or when quarantine is finally over (yay!), I’d love to see you at Sunday Beauty Boutique. I specialize in gel polish, gel extensions and nail art. Until then, take good care of your nails!