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Keeping your nails healthy can be a somewhat difficult task because your hands are one of your most-used body parts. Your nails are constantly being dried out with soap and water, beaten by the tools you use every day, and slammed into things. To keep your nails healthy, I’ve written this ultimate nail care guide to make sure your nails don’t turn into the monsters they can be.
Everyone does things to their hands that can ultimately lead to lousy nail health, whether it is a nurse washing their hands constantly, an accountant tapping away at the keyboard, or the stay-at-home mom who feels like there are always dishes to do. Our hands are our most used tools, and our fingernails tend to pay the price.
Nail Care Up Front
No matter how poorly you treat your hands, there are ways to keep your fingernails looking healthy and strong. You may need to build new routines and habits, but it is possible to restore even the worst of nails. Here are the main things you should do to take care of your nails.
- Get a manicure
- Do not bite or pick at your nails
- Use gloves
- Take your vitamins
- Use hand moisturizers
- Use cuticle oil
Different Types of Manicures
Getting a manicure can be one of the easiest ways to restore your nails and keep them healthy. Not only that, but we manicurists do know a thing or two about taking care of your nails at home and can give you some great advice specific to your problems and lifestyle. You may also want to try different manicures depending on your lifestyle.
Natural nails are best for those who are especially hard on their nails. Suppose you are the type of person dealing with construction, mechanics, gardening, or any other job that involves a measure of safety. In that case, you probably won’t even be able to have any other type of nail than a natural nail. You don’t want to have things attached to your nails because they could rip off, and you could cause some real nail damage.
A natural manicure takes care of any calluses you may have, keeps the skin around your nail manageable, and can have some polish or be buffed for a smooth nail. This keeps your nails healthy, strong, and naturally beautiful. You can maintain a natural manicure at home with cuticle oil, hand moisturizer, and exfoliating.
Gel nails are another type of nail polish that goes over your natural nail but lasts much longer than regular polish and looks shinier. If you want to keep your nail polish longer than a few days, you can opt to add gel polish to your manicure. However, be careful not to snag your gel polish on anything because if the polish gets ripped off, it can damage your natural nail until it is grown out.
You want to use cuticle oil and hand moisturizer to keep your nails healthy in between gel manicures. Scrub-type exfoliators are not recommended as the scrub could lift your gel polish, leaving hooks for it to be ripped off later. Make sure to remove your gel polish by soaking it with 100% acetone for ten to fifteen minutes because simply ripping off the polish will rip off layers of your nail with it.
Artificial nails are great for those that are tapping their nails on things constantly or have their hands in water all the time. They will last much longer than regular polish or gel polish and can add strength and length to your nails. You need to make sure you are going to a manicurist that specializes in artificial nails because if done incorrectly, your nails can become permanently damaged.
If you are very rough on your nails and hands, do not get artificial nails. If any part of your artificial nail lifts at all, it can get snagged on whatever you’re working on and rip off the artificial nail and, in worst cases, your natural nail. This can cause permanent damage to your nail, and sometimes, your nail may not even grow back.
To take care of your artificial nails between manicures, use cuticle oil, hand moisturizer, and exfoliate. You should also remove your artificial nails every four to six months for a few weeks to let your natural nail breathe. Do not let your artificial nails go without a touchup every eight weeks.
How to Keep Your Nails Healthy
Even though a manicure is one of the best types of nail care, you don’t have to routinely make it back into the salon if you take excellent care of your nails at home. Below are a few ways to keep your nails healthy, strong, and beautiful.
Do Not Bite or Pick at Your Nails
I think we all know this by now, but I will say it again for the people in the back. Do not bite at your nail’s free edge or pick your cuticles. Doing these things are the best way to cause significant, irreversible problems for nails.
Biting your nails can push your natural nail bed down your finger until you hardly have a nail left. This can cause ingrown nails and harm your finger’s tips because of the loss of your nail’s natural protection. Biting your cuticles is equally as bad because this damages where your nail grows. It can also cause your cuticles to grow back callused, which is not healthy or pretty.
The best way to protect your nail’s health is to prevent them from becoming unhealthy in the first place. The best type of protection is covering them up with gloves when you are doing tasks with your hands, like gardening, cleaning, or anything mechanical. This will cushion any blows your nails take and keep them safe from drying cleaners and soaps.
You want to make sure that you are using the right kinds of gloves for your task. Like washing dishes and wiping things down, cleaning requires rubber gloves to keep your hands dry. Gardening and mechanical situations need a thicker fabric glove, preferably leather.
Take Your Vitamins
This is one of those apparent tasks that has one of the most significant impacts on your nail’s health that people never think of. Your nails are made of keratin, which is the same stuff in your skin and hair. Biotin is the main vitamin that helps build keratin, so if you lack this vital vitamin, your body will not create enough keratin to keep your nails healthy.
A general multivitamin will have the minerals to keep your nails healthy. However, some vitamins focus on hair, skin, and nails. These vitamins will significantly help your nails grow longer and stronger as they are packed full of biotin and other essential vitamins for your nails, like A, C, and E.
Use Cuticle Oil
Cuticle oil is another overlooked product that can drastically change your nail’s health. Your cuticle is that small area at the base of your nail where the skin slightly overlaps the nail. The nail’s cuticle is where all of your nail’s nutrients come from that keep it strong and healthy. Therefore, healthy cuticles mean healthy nails.
Cuticle oil’s main job is to keep your cuticle moisturized, but some cuticle oils also have minerals and vitamins. Anything you put on your cuticle ultimately ends up in your nails, meaning your nails will benefit from all that moisture and vitamins. You should apply a small drop of cuticle oil to each nail and rub it into its surrounding skin once or twice a day.
Use Hand Moisturizers
Keeping your hands moisturized benefits your nails just as it benefits your dry hands. Everyone has dry hands nowadays with all of the handwashing we have been doing. Dry hands can not only lead to painful cracks and stiff hands, but they can also cause your nails to dry out.
When your hands are dry, they will suck up any moisture around them, meaning your nails do not get any moisture. Dry nails can lead to brittle nails, which can lead to painful cracked nails. Hand moisturizers are thicker than average and can sometimes last through hand washings.
Exfoliating gets rid of any dead skin cells that may be sitting on the surface of your skin and sucking up any moisture it receives. Your skin naturally sheds these dead skin cells, but sometimes they do not want to go, and that’s where exfoliating comes in. For your skin to receive the maximum amount of moisture from all your products, you need to exfoliate these dead skin cells.
There are different types of exfoliators that can be beneficial for different circumstances. The two types of exfoliators are:
- Physical exfoliators– These are granular scrubs that work by buffing the skin and shredding away the dead skin cells. This is used most commonly for the hands due to the mixture of sensitive and callused skin. You can change the intensity of the exfoliation with how hard you scrub, depending on the thickness of the skin.
- Chemical exfoliators– These are exfoliators made up of acidic chemicals that eat away your dead skin cells. It sounds harsher than it is, and the most you feel with these is a tingle. These are not typically used on hands but can be helpful if you have problems with recurring dead skin and calluses.
Best Products for Nail Care
Jarrow Formulas Biotin
- Vegan and gluten-free
- Large Quantity
- No fillers
- It contains an unnecessary amount of biotin
These simple vitamins will make your nails stronger and healthier, with biotin and calcium as their main ingredients. You get one hundred capsules in a bottle, and you only need to take one a day, so they will last you a long time. These gel capsules are also vegan and gluten-free.
It will not hurt you, but these vitamins contain an unnecessary amount of biotin at 5,000 mcg. They do it as a sales tactic because most people think the more of the vitamin, the better it will work, which is not valid. Your body can only hold a certain amount of any vitamin before it expels it, so that’s a lot of wasted biotin.
Olly Undeniable Beauty Gummy
- It comes in a gummy
- Includes keratin and vitamins C and E
- It comes in plastic-free packaging
- Has extra ingredients
If you are not the type of person that likes to swallow pills, this vitamin comes in a tasty gummy form. It also contains keratin, vitamin C, and vitamin E to further help with your hair, skin, and nail growth. If that isn’t enough, you can opt to have these vitamins sent to your in a plastic-free pouch and refill your bottle or take them right out of the pouch.
Since these vitamins come in a sweet gummy, they come with some extra ingredients and calories. A two-gummy dosage has fifteen calories and some extra sugars. These are also not vegan because they contain gelatin, an animal product.
Essie Apricot Nail & Cuticle Oil
- Smells Great
- Mostly natural ingredients
- Thicker than other cuticle oils
- Helps with hangnails
- It doesn’t absorb well
The best part about this cuticle oil is the apricot scent. It contains 97% natural ingredients, including jojoba oil and cottonseed oil. It is also thicker than some other cuticle oils, so it does not go everywhere while you are trying to apply it, and it is super moisturizing, which minimizes hangnails.
Since this oil is thicker, it takes longer than other oils to absorb into the skin. They say to use it twice a day, but I recommend only using this at night, and it can sit on your cuticles all night without accidentally being wiped off or washed off.
CND Solar Oil
- Absorbs fast
- Mostly jojoba oil
- Contains vitamins
This cuticle oil absorbs fast because its main ingredient is jojoba oil, which mimics your skin’s natural oils best. It also contains E vitamins, an antioxidant known for neutralizing free radicals that can cause aging skin. If that isn’t enough, it also smells like sweet cherry almond.
Even though this cuticle oil absorbs fast, it is pretty greasy before it soaks in. You need to rub this oil in fast, or it can get messy quickly. I recommend wiping each side of the brush off before applying it to the cuticle, so you do not get too much.
Philosophy Hands of Hope
- Seven Scents
- Made for hands and nails
- Absorbs well
- It can last up to 24 hours
Hands of Hope lotion works great and smells great, and if you don’t like one scent, there are six others to choose from. It is also made to moisturize cuticles as well as your hands and is long-lasting with thick ingredients like shea butter. Even though this is a thicker hand moisturizer, it absorbs well with no greasy residue.
With a great product comes a higher price. Philosophy is a brand that is not on the cheap side, with this lotion costing ten dollars for a travel-size product. However, it does tend to last a long time because a little goes a long way.
O’Keefe’s Working Hands
- Made for extremely dehydrated hands
- It makes a protective layer
- It helps heal cracked skin
- A little goes a long way
- Contains silicone
If you are someone with severely dry skin, you need a hand cream that will seal in all the moisture you can get, and Okeefe’s does just that. It works best if you apply it after you wash your hands or after a shower due to its design locking in all that hydration from the water. It can also help heal hangnails and cracked skin, and a little bit goes a long way.
One of the main ingredients in this product is silicone, and you may be able to feel it. That gives the product its protective layer, and it does work, but you may not want to coat your skin in silicone. You do not want to use this product unless you have extremely dry hands because of this.
Cela Seed to Skin Scrub
- Great for sensitive skin
- Contains shea butter
- Creates glowy skin
- Not great for really rough hands
This scrub is almost like a grainy moisturizer and is not very abrasive like most sugar or salt scrubs. It contains shea butter to moisturize your skin while exfoliating, and it gives it a creamier texture rather than an oil-based texture. This is also an excellent scrub for those that have sensitive skin because it is not too rough and contains soothing ingredients.
If your hands are on the rougher side, this may not be enough exfoliation for you. It very lightly exfoliates smoother skin rather than buffing away thick calluses. You may want to try a sugar or salt scrub for very rough hands.
Hand in Hand Sugar Scrub
- Vegan, cruelty-free, and palm oil-free
- Sugar draws in moisture
- It contains coconut oil and sunflower seed oil
- Donates soap and water for every purchase
- It can be too oily if not shaken well
This sugar scrub is not only abrasive enough to scrub off the worst spots on your hands, but the moisture also lasts because the sugar draws moisture to it throughout the day. It also contains sunflower seed oil full of vitamin E that is great for your skin, and has antiaging properties. If having a fantastic product isn’t enough, they donate one bar of soap and a month’s worth of clean water for every bottle sold.
Hand in Hand sugar scrub is an oil-based scrub and therefore needs to be shaken vigorously for the product to come out of the tube at an even consistency. If not shaken well enough, the scrub comes out way too oily. This product would have been better packaged in a jar than a squeeze tube so that you could evenly scoop out the product.
When to See a Doctor
As a nail technician, I am not legally allowed to diagnose you with anything. I can, however, tell you when to see a doctor.
Believe it or not, your nails can tell you a lot about your health, from liver disease to a fungal infection. A lot of these things are rare, and many nail flaws are harmless, so I wouldn’t immediately freak out if one of your nails is growing crooked. Also, a nail malformation is not usually the only sign if you have any of these diseases, so keep an eye out for other symptoms.
- The skin around the nail is red and puffy – This can mean that you have an infection from a hangnail or something getting under the cuticle. In the worst cases, it can come from lupus or another connective tissue disease.
- Rippled Nails – This can happen if you have had damage done to your nail bed or cuticle. It can also appear if you have psoriasis or authorities.
- Yellow Nails – Yellow nails can happen if you are a smoker or have a nail fungus. Very rarely, it can also be caused by lung disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, or psoriasis.
- White Nails – If nearly all of your nails are white, this can indicate some liver problem, usually accompanied by jaundice.
- Pale Nails – Nails very pale in color can mean anemia, congestive heart failure, liver disease, and malnutrition. Some people’s nails also turn pale when they are very cold.
- Blue Nails – If your nails are tinted blue, this could indicate your body is not getting enough oxygen. This could be from some lung disease or heart problem.
- Cracked Nails – Usually, your nails are simply dehydrated, but it could also mean you have a thyroid issue or fungal infection. It is most likely a fungal infection if your nails are also yellow.
Answer: Brittle nails are the first sign that your nails need some TLC. There are many other signs of unhealthy nails, like discoloration, lines, nail curving, and nails that are thickening or thinning. These nail health issues can be caused by underlying health conditions that a doctor should look at.
Answer: Your nails are made of keratin, a protein built with vitamin biotin. Taking biotin can significantly strengthen your nails, along with vitamins A, C, and E. Taking a multivitamin is often enough to improve your nails, but there are vitamins made for hair, skin, and nails.
Answer: The key to having healthy natural nails is protecting them, keeping them moisturized, and giving them nutrients. When you are doing hardy tasks involving your hands, you can protect them with gloves and moisturize them with lotion, cuticle oil, and exfoliators. Make sure to take your vitamins as well.
Answer: Cuticle oil keeps your cuticles moisturized, but it can also make your nails stronger. Anything you put on your cuticle is also going into your nail. So when you apply cuticle oil, you are also moisturizing your nails and providing nutrients for them.
Answer: If done and removed correctly, acrylic and gel should not harm your nails. However, if they are done improperly like ripped off or sanded down too much, acrylic and gel can cause severe damage to your nails. Make sure you see a licensed technician for the application and removal of acrylic or gel.
Nail Care Conclusion
I understand that adding in new daily routines, such as applying a cuticle oil twice a day and exfoliating once a week, can be challenging to remember. Still, I think having beautiful nails is worth the try. If you are starting with the worst possible nails, don’t be afraid to go to a manicurist first to have them fix your hands, and then start implementing these nail health tricks. You can be back to excellent nail care health in less than a month by doing these few things.