Forget the polish. First, you need a strong base.
We all want thick, smooth, beautiful nails. But sometimes our fingernails aren't as strong as we'd like them to be. The good news? By fine-tuning your habits, you can totally improve nail health.
Age and genetics play a role in nails becoming dry and brittle, which can lead to vertical lines (known as onychorrhexis) or peeling of the nails at the free edge (known as onychoschizia), says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. In other cases, ridges or lines can develop on the nail, or nails can turn yellow. Brittle nails could even be a sign of something more serious like malnutrition or internal disease, he says.
What you eat is important, too. "Internal levels of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids determine whether nails are strong and retain moisture appropriately," says New York-based dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD. Poor nutrition can weaken nails, so eating a well-balanced diet is key. "The basic structure of nails is protein, so ensuring your diet has enough protein is vital to their strength and health."
Unfortunately, your manicure habit can also affect your nails. The glue adhesive used on artificial nails, as well as the process of removing tips or gel polish can weaken nails. You should also try to let nails breathe from time to time, says Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. She recommends choosing a nail polish remover with a lesser strength acetone, such as this one from Cutex.
According to Dr. Zeichner, other bad nail habits such as biting and picking your fingernails can lead to inflammation or infection that may interfere with nail growth. In severe cases, they could even cause separation of the nail from the nail bed (yikes!). Cuticles protect the underlying skin from infection, he explains, and an infection in this area could result in a temporary or even permanent disruption of the nail.
Want to showcase the latest nail art trend? Hold off on the polish. First, you have to build a strong base. Below are dermatologist-approved, affordable remedies you can enlist to turn your nail health around—and they don't require a spa appointment or prescription.
CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream
"Good nail and hand habits include twice daily moisturizing with a ceramide-based cream," says Dr. Nazarian. She likes CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream because it has ceramides to restore and maintain skin's natural protective barrier, hyaluronic acid to retain natural moisture, and niacinamide to calm irritation.
Aveeno Cracked Skin Relief Cica Ointment for Dry Skin
Made wth petrolatum, this ointment is formulated to improve skin's moisture barrier and relieve cracked skin. "Aveeno Cracked Skin Relief Cica Ointment for Dry Skin is designed to treat individual areas of cracked skin, but the heavy ointment in an easy to apply applicator makes it ideal to use on the nails as well," says Dr. Zeichner.
Dermelect Cosmeceuticals 'ME' Peptide-Infused Nail Lacquer
Dermelect Cosmeceuticals 'ME' Peptide-Infused Nail Lacquer is Dr. Nazarian's pick for a polish that will actually strengthen weak, brittle nails. Not only does the formula prevent chipping and splitting, but it has UV protection, so colors won't fade. Bonus: try it in bold red, copper, and hunter green, too.
Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System
Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil
One of Dr. Nazarian's favorite products for nail health is Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil. And, why not? It's rich in fatty acids, is a mega-hydrator, and also has strengthening and healing properties. Also good: You can use it on your face, body, and nails. (Plus: more rosehip oil beauty products we love.)
Dermelect Nail Recovery System
If you've got weak, damaged post-acrylic nails, the at-home Dermelect Nail Recovery System will have your nails healthy in no time. The kit boasts a fortifying nail and cuticle treatment, nail strengthener, nail thickener, and ridge filler that helps deliver protein to the nail bed to promote natural, healthy growth.
Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment Skin Protectant
During more humid months, it's important to apply a barrier repair emollient to prevent moisture loss, explains Dr. Nazarian. She swears by Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment Skin Protectant, a formula with petrolatum and glycerin to help moisturize and nourish dry skin, chapped lips, even cracked cuticles.
Nature's Bounty Biotin
Want flip-worthy hair, glowing skin, and stronger nails? "Biotin is important for energy production and known to improve hair, skin and nail health," Dr. Jaliman tells us. Plus, many enzymes need biotin to function properly, she adds. Our pick: Nature's Bounty Biotin.
Collagen Gummies Supplement for Women
"The more collagen we have, the more youthful our skin will feel and appear and the healthier our hair will be," says Dr. Jaliman. Also great? Collagen is especially good for keeping nails healthy. These Collagen Gummies are made with marine collagen, which is easily digestible and doesn't taste gross. Take two daily and you'll be on your way to stronger, healthier nails.