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3 Ways You Might Be Damaging Your Nails

By Wendy Rodewald-Sulz / April 22, 2015

There was a time when I could grow my nails so long that typing on my phone became impossible, but lately, my tips tend to break constantly. I’m pretty sure my problem started with a too-hasty gel soak off and went downhill from there, but I admit I haven’t been caring for my hands like I should. If you’re in the same boat, don’t give up on growing Rihanna-esque talons just yet. Instead, be sure you’re not making one of these nail damaging mistakes.

You’re Peeling Off Your Gels

Gel manicures don’t have to be damaging — it’s the removal process that can leave nails scraped up and brittle. Peel away the gel polish without soaking it off properly and you’re bound to take off the top layer of your nail along with it. 
“The nail plate consists of roughly 100 densely packed layers of keratin,” says Dasha Minina, nail technician and founder of nail care line Maxus Nails. “If the layers have been filed off due to improper gel removal, there is not much that can be done to get them back – you have to wait for the new nail to grow out.” She created her Strengthener product ($20) to help nails get back to their non-damaged state. The clear coat creates chemical bonds that link protein chains together to harden and strengthen nails, while safflower oil adds moisture and biotin and actiphyte of myrrh promote keratin health. 
Perfect Formula’s protein-enhanced Gel Coat has long been a cult favorite for strengthening brittle nails, and now the brand has launched a new product specifically for nails that have been ravaged by soak-off gel manicures. The new Repair Coat ($28) fills ridges to create a smooth base for polish, while jojoba oil, biotin, keratin and vitamin E nourish nails. 

You’re Too Rough with the File

Shaping your nails with too hard of a file can cause splitting and tiny tears. If your file has two sides, use the one with the finer grit on natural nails — the rougher one is meant to be used on fake tips. Or choose a can’t-go-wrong file like the Shape-Defining Nail File from Beauty 360 ($4.99), which has a unique honeycomb patterned surface designed to be gentle on your tips. File in one direction only — not with a back and forth sawing motion, which creates tiny jagged edges and can set your nails up for breakage. 

You’re Drying Out Your Hands

Daily helpings of moisture are essential for preventing dried out fingertips, because once hangnails have developed, there's not much you can do to heal them except wait. Neutrogena’s classic Norwegian Formula Hand Cream ($4.99) works better than others that are two or three times the price. To nourish cuticles, finish with a few drops of Dadi Oil ($12) — a cult favorite among manicurists because its lightweight formula absorbs instantly. For a luxe all-natural option, try Fig + Yarrow’s Nail + Cuticle Salve ($20), which blends olive, hemp seed, jojoba and neem oils with shea butter and botanicals to strengthen nails.