1. Oil your nails daily.
Freelance nail technician Loui-Marie Ebanks says that dehydration often results in flaky nails and dry cuticles. "It's important to regularly apply cuticle oil to keep your nails nourished and hydrated." When you're cooking with coconut or olive oil in the kitchen don't forget to rub some into your cuticles—it's an easy hydration hit.
2. Eat a diet rich in nail-loving nutrients.
"Fingernails grow about one eighth of an inch per month," session nail technician and celebrity manicurist Lucy Tucker says, "so adding oils high in fatty acids, anti-oxidants and nutrients will help with natural nail growth." Nails thrive when you eat foods like salmon, chicken, eggs, coconut oil and green vegetables like spinach and avocados. However, Lucy adds, "if you're a fussy eater then help maintain healthy, strong nails by taking supplements rich in zinc, vitamin E and biotin."
3. Never pull at hangnails.
"Avoid touching hangnails at all costs," says nail authority and celeb manicurist Michelle Humphrey. Those loose/dry bits of skin around the cuticle are all too tempting too pull off—but don't. "Biting or pulling them off can lead to bleeding and potential infection." Michelle says you can prevent hangnails by keeping your cuticles nourished (see #1!).
4. Tackle stubborn stains (instead of hiding them).
Lynn Gray, National Sales Manager for Mavala says, "Nails turn an unnatural color as a result of a few different things: smoking, illness, or by not wearing a base coat with a strong nail polish color," says Lynn. To brighten and lighten the nail, try making a homemade scrub using lemon juice (there's loads of recipes on the Internet, but mixing it with sugar and olive oil would work). Lynn continues, "Using an optical nail whitener would make the whites of the nail look whiter and the pinks look pinker, as well as helping to neutralize yellow tones."
5. Find your most flattering nail shape.
Loui-Marie told us that "squoval shaped nails—in between square and oval—give the illusion that your nails are longer, whereas having round nails can actually make your fingers look shorter"—so pick a shape that suits your fingers. In theory everyone should mirror their tips to their cuticles for the ideal nail shape.
6. Always file in one direction.
"Get in the habit of filing in one direction," Lucy explains, "and try using long light strokes as this will minimize friction and heat build-up which can split and damage the nail." Keep a mini nail file in your kikay kit in case of an emergency.
7. Wear gloves for chores and take showers, not baths
"Hot water, detergents and harsh cleaning chemicals can ruin your mani so if you have to do the washing up and cleaning—wear rubber gloves to protect your nails," says beauty editor Bridget March. "Soaking your nails for any length of time will let water seep into the nail plate and weaken the polish, so avoid it where possible."
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.