Have you ever gotten a manicure and noticed a split nail form a day or two later? Or that the skin surrounding your cuticles has become dry and flaky? Though you could easily fix these issues in a matter of minutes with a nail or cuticle clipper, they are signs of poor nail health that shouldn't be taken lightly.
So we asked Deborah Lippmann, founder and creative director of the eponymous luxury beauty line, and Dr. Ava Shamban, dermatologist and author, to share their top tips on growing healthier and stronger nails.
1. Don't cut your cuticles. Lippmann is a big believer that cutting the cuticles is not the way to go. "Your skin is your body's largest organ and your cuticles are the end of the skin -- they are meant to be there to act as a barrier for bacteria," she said.
A safer alternative is to push cuticles back using an exfoliating and waterless treatment like Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover. Apply the product liberally to all nails where the skin meets the nail and use a cuticle pusher to gently push back.
"You must go around the cuticle area several times to get a clean cuticle," explained Lippmann. Wipe clean with a piece of cotton. Any remaining lifted pieces of skin are hangnails. Carefully nip only these dead pieces of skin. "Never cut all the way around the cuticle because that will cause the skin to become ragged and tear, opening the body to bacteria," said Lippmann.
2. Don't saw nails back and forth. Nail shape trends are constantly evolving -- from oval to square to stiletto. However, the best shape is the one that looks best on you. And according to Lippmann, the shape of the nail can help to elongate one's hands and improve the overall hand appearance. Remember to look at your hands from every angle and to file from each outside edge toward the center of the nail. Never saw back and forth on the tip of the nail, as this will weaken nails.
3. Don't use nails as tools. When a pair of scissors aren't within reach, you may use a nail or two to open up a letter or box. This is a bad idea because you risk bending the nail back, among many other things. "The white area, referred to as the stress area, will eventually weaken and break. So make a conscious effort to pay close attention to how you use nails," said Lippmann.
4. Do eat a well-balanced diet. Diet plays a huge role in all functions of the body. To attain strong and healthy nails, Dr. Shamban suggests eating plenty of protein. "Nails are made out of protein, so the first thing you can try is adding more to your diet. Eat lean poultry, fish, beef and pork, as well as spinach and other vegetables that contain protein," she explained.
Genes also play a big part in having brittle nails, according to Lippman. A biotin supplement is a great way to strengthen nails and promote growth. "Products, both treatment and lacquer, that include biotin are also very helpful so that you can apply it directly on the nail," she said. Drinking lots of water is also important to keep nails and cuticles hydrated.
5. Don't peel off old nail polish. Picking away at old or chipped nail polish will aggravate the nail bed and lead to damage. Using too much lacquer causes polish to peel. "If you apply very thin coats, letting the polish dry in between each layer so that the solvents evaporate, it will wear better and last longer," said Lippmann. She recommends waiting at least a minute or two between each coat, and never skip base or top coat. Wearing gloves when working with any kind of cleaning supplies will also extend your manicure.
6. Do get manicures. A weekly manicure (even for short nails ) is key. "Grooming your nails will make any shade look great, whether you do it at home or go to the salon," said Lippmann. "The most important thing is to start with a proper manicure so that the nails are the same length and shape, and cuticles are pushed back."
7. Do keep nails and hands moisturized. Unless you suffer from severely dry skin, you may not hydrate nearly as much as you should. But your nails would look a lot better if you did. "Moisturize your hands with hand cream or cuticle oil every time you wash your hands," said Lippmann.
A few of the editors here at HuffPost Style keep cuticle oil handy on our office desk to keep our nails hydrated throughout the day. Dr. Shamban adds, "Coconut oil also works well to soften cuticles, moisturize hands and prevent hangnails."
8. Don't overdo it with the hand sanitizer. With all the germs we come in contact with on a daily basis, slathering on hand sanitizer has become second nature for many people. But the germ-fighting solution could be doing more harm then good.
"You should apply it on the skin, but be careful not to put it on the nails," said Lippmann. "Don’t overuse it because it’ll really dry out the hands and the nails if you’re not careful when applying. Soap is also drying to some degree, so when putting anything on your hands just be careful of your nails and cuticles."
9. Do be cautious of chemicals in nail products. That pretty shade of pink or red nail polish that's sitting on the shelf at the nail salon may be loaded with hazardous materials or chemicals. Dr. Shamban recommends using a chemical-free nail polish. She adds, "Today, there are many lines that are vegan and chemical-free, SpaRitual is a great line. Rejuvacote is a repairing polish that builds and restores the nail."
Lippman's nail polish formula is 5-free, which means that it is free of formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalates, camphor and formaldehyde resin. "Some brands use formaldehyde resin, and can say they are formaldehyde free. The resin is a lesser strength, but it’s still formaldehyde -- look at the label and really make sure that the product is free of chemicals," said Lippmann.
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