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Got Brittle And Damaged Nails? Here's How To Fix Them, According To Experts

Do *not* peel your nail polish!
how to repair damaged nails
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Hands up if your damaged nails are in need of TLC? Same, pal, same. Just like the rest of our bodies, our nails can bear the brunt of stress, and with no access to the pros to keep them on track, they might be starting to look a little sorry.

Since lockdown began, I’ve been honing my DIY manicure skills at home, you know, just in case. When it comes to my nails, I really wanted to know how to repair weakened, brittle, flaky nails—without just having to wait for them to grow back. (Please tell me you can relate).

Because if, like me, you’ve been biting them and you've peeled off your gel polish or your at-home acrylic talons and this trauma has left your natural nails paper-thin... Well, you're in luck, because I quizzed some industry experts to find out how to restore them to their former glory. Keep on reading to learn more:


How to Repair Damaged Nails

Stay away from liquids

Ok, you can’t completely keep clear but it’s important to avoid your nails having prolonged spells in water. "Your nail plate is made up of layers and water gets between those layers pushing them apart causing peeling/flaking and weak spots. Be sure to wear gloves when washing up and try to keep some polish on your nails," says Jess Clarke, a professional nail tech. "Gel color will of course give you better protection but regular polish—or even just a clear base (and topcoat) if you don’t want color—will seal your nails against water."

You don’t need to avoid gels

If you’ve heard the myth about gels damaging your nails, NAF Stuff! Founder Tammy Koslowski wants to squash the rumors once and for all. "It's completely safe to wear gel polish or nail polish on your nails long term. My nails only really 'grow' when I have gel polish on because they’ve got an added layer of strength," she says. “A lot of people think that gel polish damages their nails, but it’s usually because they have picked them off or removed them/had them removed improperly which has resulted in trauma to their nail plate. Gel polish must be applied, maintained, and removed correctly to ensure optimum nail health, otherwise, you can end up with sore, thin nails."

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DO NOT peel your polish

"Even thinking about it gives me shivers," says Tammy. "It’s tempting to peel any lifting gel polish, but when you do, you’re actually taking off the top layers of your nail plate and causing trauma to your nail. Your nails play an important role in strengthening the grip on your hands and protecting all those sensitive nerve endings so peeling layers off, them will only result in sore nails any time pressure is applied - and you use your hands a lot!"

Up your protein

Did you know your hair and nail are both formed with protein? So naturally, it makes sense that topping up with protein treatments will help your nails as it does your hair. As Sherrille Riley, founder of Nails and Brows, Mayfair says, "Adding protein to your nail care routine is a great way to improve the condition of damaged nails. At Nails and Brows Mayfair, we offer the IBX Nail Strengthening Treatment—which contains jojoba and avocado oils—to help naturally condition nails back to health. I also recommend applying a protein base coat every two days to improve nail strength."


Leave the cuticle cutting to the pros

Unless you’re super advanced at at-home nail care, let your nail tech do the intense cuticle work. "Please don’t cut your own cuticles!" says Tammy. "If they need a little extra TLC after you’ve done your maintenance then book into a salon with a pro who can do it properly for you—your cuticles play a super important role in stopping bacteria getting into your body and cutting them improperly can lead to infections."

BUT do use cuticle oil on the regular

"Peeling, brittle nails and dry cuticles can be a sign of dehydration so make sure you are using nail oil regularly,” says nail tech and OPI Nail Boss Marta Nagorska. "During the pandemic, we are constantly washing our hands and using hand sanitizer. These strips our nails of their natural oils, so replenish the moisture loss by applying your cuticle oil at least twice a day to reap the benefits. Regular use of cuticle oil is also a great way to prevent painful hangnails. Keep a bottle on your bedside table and use it before you go to sleep."


If in doubt, seek professional help

For really flaky nails, it’s always worth seeking in-salon help if you can to get advice from the pros. "If your nails are super brittle, it’s worth a visit to your local nail salon/technician for a professional opinion," says Tammy. "If they can’t treat it, they might forward you on to a doctor to rule out any underlying issues that may be causing it before they book you in for some TLC."


This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.