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How To Strengthen Your Nails

With my nail polish collection rapidly growing, I've been switching polish colors as often as possible — which, of course, causes problems with my nails. So I thought it would be a good idea to give you some tips on how to protect your nails from damage, as well as help fix already-damaged ones. Vertical ridges, white marks, spots, peeling and brittleness are normal signs of neglected nails. Anything else strange going on with your nails could be an indication of a health problem. There's no need to freak out, but keep an eye on it and see a doctor if you suspect there's something funky going on there.

To see how to protect and strengthen your nails,


  • Use a base coat: Using a base coat before applying color will protect your nails from any harmful chemicals in your polish, and also help prevent the polish from staining your nails. I like Butter London Nail Foundation, especially because it's formaldehyde-free.
  • Keep it short: Long nails are more likely to snag and tear. The best shape for your nail's health is square and slightly rounded on the top (some call this "squoval"). Clean under the nails regularly, and file any snags as soon as they happen.
  • Just say no toluene, formaldehyde, and DBP, that is. These common nail polish ingredients can dry out and damage your nails, and formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. To see which nail polish brands are "three-free," check out this post.
  • Reduce remover: Ideally, you should limit your nail polish remover usage to twice a month. I know that sounds difficult, but try extending your manicures with a rock-solid top coat, like my personal favorite, Seche Vite. When it's time to remove your polish, use a non-acetone remover, and let nails breathe for a few days in between applications.
  • Soak: If, despite your best efforts, your nails end up a brittle, peeling mess, treat them to a warm oil soak. Just heat some bath or olive oil in the microwave, then dip your fingertips in for about 10-15 minutes. When you're finished, rub generous amounts of lotion or a good cuticle cream into your nails and cuticles. I'm a fan of Kiehl's Imperiale Cuticle Treatment ($19.50).
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