Everything You Need to Know to Prevent Nail Breakage

Shannon Farrell
Nail File

Photo: Getty Images

In our Q&A series, beauty experts address your most bewildering issues. Have a beauty-related quandary of your own? Submit your question in the comments below or via Twitter.

Q: I have extremely brittle nails. How do I prevent them from breaking?

A: “The vast majority of brittle nails are related to dehydration of the nail plate and cuticle due to nail processing, over-washing, etc. rather than health problems, says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, Co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C. “Although vitamin deficiency and illness can cause the nails to change and look different, most nail problems are related to what we do to them, not a systemic illness.”

So what can you be doing every day to prevent nail breakage? You’ve probably heard of “nail vitamins” that are supposed to strengthen nails using biotin. The truth is there’s little evidence to prove they actually work. We’ve tried them in the past, and honestly, didn’t see any difference. It turns out the best way to keep your nails strong involves daily maintenance, and making sure you don’t mistreat them with products you use. Deborah Lippmann, Founder and Creative Director of the Deborah Lippmann luxury beauty line, gave us a few pointers how to enjoy your at-home manicure without butchering your nails.

Be Gentle When Shaping
“Never saw back and forth on the tip of the nail,” says Lippmann. “Rather than filing straight across, file at an angle so that you have less of a chance of bending the nail if you have weak nails.” At an angle, you’ll be more careful. “Remember to look at the hands from every angle. File from each outside edge toward the center of the nail.”

Use the Right File
“Stay away from metal files, especially if your nails are prone to breaking because one false move and you can mess up the nail.” Also, opt for a glass nail file over cardboard. They prevent peeling and chipping by actually sealing the keratin layers together at the edge of the nail.

Stave Off Dryness
“My mantra is moisturize,  moisturize, moisturize. I recommend keeping cuticle oil on your desk and by your bed, and keep hand cream at every sink in your home. It’s important to moisturize hands every time you wash them to prevent dry, flaky nails, cuticles and skin.”

Read more: The Secret to Making Nail Polish Dry Faster, Last Longer

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