How To Turn Your Weak, Brittle Nails Into Longer, Stronger Ones

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Norse mythology makes mention of a ship called Naglfar that ferries brave warriors to face off against the gods. What makes Naglfar so distinctive and so terrifying is that it’s made entirely out of fingernails — which, from a practical standpoint, is a terrible idea when you consider that nails are ten times more porous than your skin. That thing wouldn’t have made it out of the dock.
But if your nails are even weaker than the concept of a ship made out of keratin, you may find cause for concern. Flaky, brittle nails usually go hand-in-hand (no pun intended) with generally dry skin. Kerrie, an elite nail technician at UK-based beauty-on-demand service Blow LTD, explains that some people are "born with weaker nails than others, just like some of us are born with green eyes or curly hair." You might have drawn a genetic short straw, but all is not lost.
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The first question is one of external factors: Are you abusing your poor hands? "Flakiness is often down to weak nails being further weakened by your day-to-day life," Kerrie says. "There are a number of things that will damage your nails: doing the dishes without gloves, peeling off your gel polish, and picking at acrylics, which would remove the top layer of the natural nail." Even hot baths can inflict damage, though applying hand cream any time you're exposed to water (yes, even after you wash your hands) helps to mitigate.
If your nails have fallen victim to the drying (and all too common) effects of water, keeping your nail beds pristine can make all the difference between your hands looking perfectly manicured and totally chewed-out. In addition to your hand cream, Kerrie advises using cuticle oil twice a day — morning and night — and taking the time to really massage it in. "This will help to protect, replenish, and strengthen," she explains.
You've likely already come to terms with the fact that gel polish isn't exactly good for your nails, but if you're undeterred, Kerrie says you don't have to give up on it altogether. "Shellac or gel polish is fine to have on brittle nails, as long as you use a cuticle oil on a daily basis to prevent it from drying out even more," she says. "In between appointments, I always suggest reviving nails with OPI Gel Break. It's enriched with reparative vitamins and minerals to help restore nail health, and it adds a nice glossy sheen."
At the end of the day, Kerrie's biggest recommendation is to keep things simple. "Flaky nails are better kept short, regularly manicured, and treated with oil and keratin-boosting products to help prevent the flaking," she says. "Bear in mind it will take around two or three months of good maintenance to see results."
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