The next time your favorite gel manicure chips and you're tempted to tear the whole thing off — don't. Instead, follow Allure 's advice to get your tips back in shape.
Disclaimer: I in no way condone picking off a gel manicure. It may be the worst thing you can do to your nails, short of slamming them in a door. Here's why: "Nails are composed of cells called keratinocytes that look like tiles on a roof if you examine them under a microscope," says New York City dermatologist Dana Stern, who specializes in nail health. "By peeling off a gel manicure, you are not only removing the gel, but also the top layers of these delicate cells. This can result in white patches and textural irregularities throughout the nails." But it can be so hard to resist! I've actually sworn off gel manicures, since we're still not 100 percent sure how safe they are. But if you haven't, and you find yourself picking at your nails, here's how to get them back in shape.
Gently buff your nails . . . and I repeat, gently. "This will even out the nail plates and prevent any further peeling," says manicurist Madeline Poole.
Take a polish holiday. If you stop wearing nail polish, "your nails can heal and repair themselves in several weeks," says Stern.
Break out the clippers. You don't need me to tell you that your nails are supersoft right now—all you have to do is touch them. "To prevent your nails from breaking, which can be quite painful, you should keep them very short until they recover," says Poole.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. You should always moisturize your nails and the area around them, but it's even more important once you've picked off a gel manicure. "Moisturizing with your favorite cuticle oil or cream will help damaged cells stick together, thus improving the appearance of the surface of the nail." If you don't have a favorite, try this one recommended by Elle, a manicurist whose clients include Blake Lively : Dermelect Rejuvenail Fortifying Nail & Cuticle Treatment  ($13). "It contains a protein peptide that both hydrates and strengthens your nails," she says. "It also keeps your cuticles from becoming dry and ragged."
Hands off your cuticles! They protect the new nails growing underneath, so cutting your cuticles can cause further damage. Instead, push them back with an orange stick, and massage cuticle oil on them daily. Some of my top picks include OPI Avoplex Cuticle Oil to Go  ($9), Sally Hansen VitaSurge Cuticle Gel  ($5), and Julep Mighty Nail & Cuticle Serum  ($22).
Use a nail strengthener. If you feel naked without nail polish, you can top your nails with a strengthening product, like Sally Hansen Miracle Cure for Severe Problems Nails  ($9), says Poole. (Poole is a spokeswoman for Sally Hansen .)
Head to the salon. I know, I know—the whole reason you're in this situation is because you were too lazy to go to the salon, but if your nails are in really bad shape, you might want to considering making the trip. "Find a salon that uses the IBX System, which is an intense conditioning treatment for your nails," says Elle. "It uses heat to help penetrate a serum into the top layers of your natural nails, which fills in grooves caused by tearing off product." To find a salon with IBX, visit ibxnails.com.
More from Allure:
Make Your Manicure Last With These Tricks 
Try This DIY Nail Rehab Treatment 
A Professional Shares Nail-Growing Tips