Nail breakage can be annoying and also a little concerning (if it happens to you often). It can look unsightly (hello, ruined manicure) or even be somewhat painful. So what exactly is a healthy nail? Well, it can probably be easy for you to tell, but in case you need some clarification, according to the Mayo Clinic, "healthy fingernails are smooth, without pits or grooves. They're uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration."
To get your fingernails in better shape, it takes a combo of nailcare and lifestyle changes. And there are certain things you might be doing that can cause your nails to be weaker. The good news is if you know what to avoid, you can start taking care of your nails better. So I asked experts what things can really destroy your nails, and they shared the common causes below.
What's Causing Your Nails to Break
1. You're not getting enough nutrients: "A healthy and balanced diet, lots of water, and multivitamins will improve the condition of your body, skin, and nails," says Anastasia Totty, a LeChat Nails educator. "If you start losing those important nutrients, you may become prone to nails peeling and breaking."
2. Filing and shaping the nails improperly: "Filing and shaping nails may seem like a mindless activity, but it can weaken and break your nails if done improperly," explains Deborah Lippmann, celebrity manicurist and the founder of her eponymous brand. "To prevent this, never 'saw' back and forth on the tip of the nail. Instead, gently run the file across the nail in one direction. Beginning at the outside edge, pull toward the center and repeat. If your nails are thinner and have the tendency to peel or break, be especially careful while filing. Rather than holding the file flush to the nail, tilt it so it is underneath. This allows you to see exactly what you are doing and helps protect against over-filing."
3. You're not protecting your nails: The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping your fingernails dry and clean, which can prevent bacteria from growing underneath them.
4. Biting and picking at your nails: This can damage the nail bed, the Mayo Clinic says. Bacteria or fungi can get into cuts around the fingernails and lead to infections. And you'll also want to avoid pulling off hangnails, as you can cause damage. Instead, you can clip them off.
5. Using harsh nail products: The Mayo Clinic suggests limiting your use of nail polish remover, and if you use one, opt for something that's acetone-free.
6. Using your nails as tools: Lippmann says this is another common cause of nail breakage. "Every time you bend the tip (free edge or white part) of the nail, you are weakening the nail," she says.
How to Strengthen Your Nails
As for what to do to make your nails stronger, you can avoid or rethink your habits on the above, of course. And you can also take these steps to treat them better:
1. Hydrate them: "Hydrating daily is key!" explains Lippmann. "One of the biggest problems women have is that their nails, cuticles, and hands are extremely dry. Think of your nails and hands like your face. It wouldn't occur to most women to wash their face and not apply a moisturizer, but they wash their hands over and over and don't apply hand lotion. Keep a hand lotion that hydrates and protects your skin, like my Rich Girl Broad Spectrum SPF 25 Hand Cream, at every sink in your home, at your office desk, and in your purse. Easy access is key because when adding a step to any routine, oftentimes, out of sight means out of mind."
2. Wear gloves: "Try wearing gloves when working around the house, like when washing dishes or scrubbing the bathroom—cleaning solutions can dry out your hands and nails, and polish will chip faster," Lippmann says. "Try to keep nails clear of anything oily or greasy. It can cause nail color to wear away quickly and become dull."
3. Practice good nail hygiene: The Mayo Clinic suggests using sharp manciure scissors or clippers. When you trim your nails, trim them straight across and round the tips.
4. Don't use too much hand sanitizer: If that's the only thing that's available, then go ahead. But Totty says if you have the option to wash your hands with soap and water instead, do that. That's because hand sanitizers can dry out the skin faster if you use too much.
5. Don't soak your nails in water for a long time: "If you are an avid bath taker, do not leave your nails in the water for too long, as they will soften, and your nail polish may not hold up as long as you would like," Lippmann says. And soaking them for too long can lead to split fingernails.
6. Care for your cuticles: "Weekly cuticle treatment is also essential," Lippmann says. "Apply an exfoliating cuticle treatment, like my Cuticle Remover, and push back gently. Finish by applying a drop of my Cuticle Oil at the base of each nail and massaging the area with The Cure Cuticle Repair Cream."
6. Consider a biotin supplement: The Mayo Clinic says that some research suggests that biotin may help strengthen weak or brittle nails.
7. Consult your doctor: "Consult with a doctor if you see any abnormal changes in the anatomy of your nails, separation of nail plate, dark spots, dents and grooves (vertical or horizontal), extremely thick toenails, or yellow or brown buildup underneath," Totty says. "The longer you wait, the harder it is to fix these issues."
More Nail-Strengthening Products to Shop
"It is important to use cuticle oil daily, like LeChat CBD Cuticle Oil, which has full-spectrum CBD and is rich in vitamin E and moisturizing essential oils," Totty says. "It absorbs very well and is extremely beneficial for healthy-looking skin and nails. Cuticle oil is to the cuticles what conditioner is to hair—it moisturizes and gives a perfect finish to your skin."
Elon's conditioning formula helps nails that are cracking, splitting, peeling, thin, brittle, and difficult to grow.
This base coat is infused with kale extract to strengthen the nails. Plus, it has keratin to harden, nourish, and stimulate nail growth.
Hum Nutrition's vegan biotin supplement supports both nails and hair. It promotes nail thickness and reduces nail splitting and breakage.
This cuticle oil has over 100,000 ratings and 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, so you know it's good. It's a lightweight formula that sinks into the skin and nails so quickly.
Caudalie's hand-and-nail cream is formulated with moisturizing active ingredients, antioxidant grape polyphenols, and organic fair trade shea butter to nourish the skin.
This restorative base coat hydrates, strengthens, and nourishes the nails. It's formulated with three AHAs (to refresh the nail surface), hexanal (to strengthen and condition), and vitamins C, E, and B5 (to hydrate and protect).