Wrecked Your Nails With Acrylics? Here's Your SOS Guide

False eyelashes, hair extensions, and acrylic nails — the fun additions to a beauty routine may not actually be the best things to be gluing to our bodies. Nonetheless, advancements within the beauty industry mean that these things have come leaps and bounds, and within reason, we can carry on doing all of the above while protecting our natural assets.

There's no denying nail art and long lengths are (still) having a moment. Fun? Yes! The only problem? They're not without downsides: glues, buffing, chemicals that dry the nail, and even electric drills. These things don't exactly spell out healthy nail beds now, do they? After months, and sometimes even years, of fills and extensions, your nails can be left looking and feeling damaged and weak.

We spoke to Izabelle Bellamy — who filed her way through the ranks at WAH Nails, a U.K. hub for all things nail art, and is now the resident technician at East London's Stunt Dolly salon — about how to resuscitate nails that have passed over to the other side.

Bellamy explained that "acrylic nail extensions shouldn't really damage your nails, provided the correct preparation, maintenance (every two to three weeks), aftercare, and removal procedures are followed. The real damage is caused by heavy-handed nail technicians. Be wary of over-filing and drilling, this will cause weak and peeling nails — and even painful results."

She goes on to add, "You should always visit a qualified and insured nail tech. Over time, the acrylic begins to lose adhesion to the nail and can lift; if air pockets start to be common, this should be a warning sign. Acrylics should be removed and replaced every six to 12 months, although a person's daily routine and home care plus how often they have infills does determine time, too."

Okay, so obviously those are all wise rules to follow, but Bellamy accepts we can't always chose our nail technician and, well, life sometimes just gets in the way of perfect nails. For times when things don't go as planned, here are Bellamy's top tips and products for nails that really need some TLC, post-acrylics.

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Photographed by Dan McCoy.
Nail Clippers & A File
"On removal, I suggest cutting nails down as short as you can bear, if damaged, nails will be flimsy and more likely to break and flake if left long," Bellamy says.
Equipped with a nail clipper, hangnail nipper, nail file, and cuticle pusher, this convenient compact has all the tools you need to rescue your damaged nails — and you can do it on-the-go.

Tweezerman Mini Nail Rescue Kit, $22, available at Sephora.
Photographed by Dan McCoy.
Gloves and cuticle oil, please!
Cuticle oil is now your best friend. Leave it on your desk, put it in your handbag, just make sure you apply twice a day. Don't clean or wash dishes without gloves! Chemicals and water can make nails soft and bendy; gloves will help to protect them.
If applying cuticle oil several times a day is something you have a tough time getting excited about, here’s your answer: an incredibly luxe nail serum that nourishes, hydrates, and strengthens without leaving any oily residue behind. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot easier to toss this sleek tube in your bag than a glass bottle.

Dior Huile Abricot Daily Nutritive Serum, $28, available at Nordstrom.
Or, baby your fingers with this blend of honey, shea butter, and vitamin B5.

Julep Your Cuticles Look Thirsty, Fast-Absorbing Cuticle Crème, $20, available at Julep.
Photographed by Dan McCoy.
Nail Strengthener
Regular manicures for your natural nails are now a very good idea. Ask that the manicurist applies a nail strengthener, and invest in your own; use regularly for four weeks at home, and your nails will thank you.
This at-home kit will strengthen, seal, and protect nails damaged by gels or acrylics.

Perfect Formula Gel Coat Manicure Set, $29 ($46 value), available at Sephora.
Photographed by Dan McCoy.
Homemade Remedies
Homemade remedies work. To prepare my favorite treatment, mix three tablespoons of olive oil and one table spoon of lemon juice in a bowl. Place your clean, bare nails into the bowl for about 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse with water. Do this treatment one to two times a week for four weeks and see your nails get healthier and stronger. On average, your nails should return to their natural state within three or four months.
Photographed by Dan McCoy.
"Gel" Manicure
The call of the gel manicure is strong, but it's easy to get hooked on that, too — and even easier to remove it improperly, resulting in damage. Go for a gel-finish nail polish, which is just as shiny and lasts days longer without chipping than traditional polish.
DIY your gel mani with this polish that comes in 19 sophisticated shades and lasts a good week or more.

Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro Nail Polish, $20, available at Sephora.
R29's associate partnerships manager, Michaela Rollings, wore this polish for one week straight and said that there was only slight wear and tear at the edges of her cuticles.

Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish in Rock The Runway, $11.49, available at Target.
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