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Forget the polish. First, you need a strong base.

By Susan Brickell
November 27, 2018
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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. 

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