Taking proper care of your nails requires so much more than simply clipping and filing them every few days. On the contrary, nail health depends on many factors, from your nutrition to your manicure choices to the way you go about your daily chores. Because of that, there are many ways you might be harming your nails without even realizing it. Here, estheticians tell us the most common ways people accidentally ruin their nails. Avoid these behaviors and you’ll have strong, healthy, and gorgeous fingernails in no time flat.
READ THIS NEXT: If You’re Over 50, Stop Wearing This Nail Polish Color.
Visiting a nail salon that doesn’t follow regulations regarding cleanliness and sanitation can put your nail health—and your general health—at risk, says Kayla Bramlet, director of education and training at Frenchies Modern Nail Care. So, how can you tell if your salon is up to par? Bramlet says common tip-offs are if there are dirty towels lying around the salon or the staff doesn’t take time to disinfect pedicure chairs between customers.
You’ll also want to ensure the file that’s being used to shape your nails doesn’t have any marks. “If there are marks, the file has been used and could contain bacteria,” says Bramlet. Lastly, metal implements sitting in disinfectants at the service station are a red flag. “The tools must be scrubbed with soap and water to remove debris, or the implements [can] contaminate the disinfectant,” says Bramlet. Ask your manicurist to clarify if you’re unsure of a salon’s sanitation procedures.
When doing an at-home manicure, you might be tempted to skip your base coat to save time. Unfortunately, this can ruin your nails. “Think about a base coat like a moisturizer before your foundation,” says Amy Ling Lin, CEO and founder of nail polish and nail care brand Sundays. “It can hydrate your nails and also prevent nail polish from staining your nails if you forget to remove your polishes after two to three weeks.” The only way to remedy stained nails is by filing the nail plate, which can lead to additional damage.
ARTFULLY PHOTOGRAPHER / Shutterstock
Just because your gel or dip nail job is peeling doesn’t mean you should pick it off the rest of the way. “When you peel off a manicure, it’s not just the color you’re removing, you’re also likely removing a layer of the natural nail as well,” says Juli Russell, DIY nail expert for Sally Beauty. “Your nails are made of lots of layers of keratin, and over time, peeling off a manicure will weaken your natural nails and cause them to become brittle.”
Instead, remove your manicure properly. “Soak your gel or dip powder manicure with acetone for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the product to thoroughly soften,” she says. “Then it can be pushed easily from off the nail.”
READ THIS NEXT: If You See This on Your Nails, It Could Be a Tell-Tale Sign of Diabetes.
If Russell has one tip she wishes to impart, it’s to stop using your nails as tools. “I know, it’s so tempting, especially when your stiletto manicure is basically a travel screwdriver,” she says. Unfortunately, “everyday household chores are your nails’ worst enemy.” When doing chores that expose your nails to harsh environments or water for a long period of time—such as cleaning the tub or dishes—use gloves. “Keeping polish (even just a layer of strengthener) on your nails also provides strength and resilience to your natural nails,” Russell adds.
For more beauty advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Nail health starts from the inside out. “Something as simple as not drinking enough water will lead to more brittle, weak nails,” says Bramlet. “Staying hydrated will allow your nails to hold moisture longer which will also help your manicure last longer.” Other easy ways to add moisture are massaging your nail beds when you use hand lotion and consuming a healthy and varied diet.