At some point, a lot of us beauty trend-obsessed individuals went HAM with the nail art. Crazy designs using layers of polish, decals, objet d’arts–if it was novel and tiny enough to fit on a nail, chances are some of us have glued it onto our fingers. Even manicure technology that gave us 10-day chip-free color put our poor nail beds to the test. Anyone who’s marathoned gel manicure after gel manicure knows that once removed, your nails look like flimsy withered versions of their former selves (probably one of the reasons you got them in the first place). Don’t panic just yet. Your nails WILL be okay. You’re going to have to lay off the polish and pretty much any digit-decoration for a while. In the meanwhile, here’s how to pamper your nails to get them back to their talon-worthy state.
MORE: Winter Nail Care Tips
Keep them clipped. Nothing may be more satisfying than seeing your broken nails grow back from the dead. Progress before your very eyes! But you know how tragic it is to see your perfectly grown and shaped nails break or split (making the rest of your nails look totally uneven)? This is more likely to happen the longer you keep your weakened nails. Also nails–like hair–absorbs things, so the longer the nail, the more surface area around to absorb whatever potentially-damaging chemicals your hands come in contact with. Sabotage! For that matter, avoid contact with any alcohol-based hand sanitizers or soaking them too long in hot water–both of which dry out and weaken nails further. Wear gloves when using cleaning agents, for instance.
Give yourself a cuticle massage. Seeing as your skin and nails absorb things, you may as well let it absorb all sorts of good nutrient-filled substances like vitamin E, conditioning oils, and strengthening treatments. Vitamin E gel capsules, olive oil, cuticle oil–your cuticles and nail beds drink this stuff up, especially if they’re dry and damaged. If you want to go above and beyond, Julep offers an Oxygen Nail Treatment that works to restructure nails via their unique Hexanal formulation and uses oxygen technology to form a water-resistant film on top of nails which allows oxygen to permeate (something your gel polishes do not do), so your nails can have their space to heal and get stronger.
Work from the inside out. Lot of old wives tales say that your health shows up on your nails, which isn’t entirely untrue. If you take the right supplements to strength hair and nails, you’ll probably see results as soon as a week or two, considering nails are so small in general that any incremental growth is visible. Biotin is a big one for hair and nail growth. Vitamins B, C, D and zinc are other health boosters that contribute to healthy skin, hair, and nails.
Don’t use your nails as tools. Okay, so technically finger nails ARE nature’s talons but when you’ve put them through the cosmetic ringer, they are in no shape to be doing anything they are supposed to. Opening a can of soda? Prying key rings? Scratch’n’sniffing? Consider these all banned habits while your nails are weak. Worst case scenario is that you use your nails to pry something open and it’s your nail that comes off, not the other thing. Shudder.
Lay off the polish. This should be a no brainer, but seriously, even clear polish that claims to be a strengthener plus polish can be damaging, depending on how far gone your nails are. If you need some semblance of shine and health to your nails, gently buff and file them to your desired smoothness and shape, and then again with the cuticle oil–coat and massage. Not only will your nails look shiny and “quenched,” but your fingers and hands will get a nice hydrating treatment too.