6 Expert-Approved Ways to Strengthen Damaged Nails

Celebrity manicurists reveal their best tips for keeping nails in tip-top shape.

There's no denying there's a long list of upshots to making gels, acrylics, or dip your go-to manicure. Zero dry time, long wear with no chips, perpetually glossy shine, and, in the case of acrylics, even longer length. But all of these types of manis come with the potential to take a major toll on your nails (particularly if they're removed improperly).

If your weak, brittle nails are in need of a little extra TLC, listen up. We've rounded up pro tips from celebrity manicurists and nail experts (including their go-to nail strengtheners and supplements) to help your nails grow stronger and longer.

Tip #1: Remove Polish Correctly

Okay, so technically this isn't a repair tip, but do this first and it can save you from having to deal with a lot of potential problems. First and foremost, repeat after us: I will not pick off a gel manicure.

"Picking off gel is probably the worst thing you can do to your nails," says celebrity manicurist Geraldine Holford. "The immediate effects are harming the nail plate because you're removing the top layers of the actual nail along with your polish," she explains. "The long-term effects are thinning of the nails, harm to the nail bed, and irregularities on the nail plate and in growth patterns." ORLY's Senior Product Testing Manager, Kelly Bannon agrees, adding that even if you soak your nails to remove the polish, you can still damage your nails if not soaked long enough or if the topcoat barrier is not broken, prohibiting the removal to reach all the gel layers. She strongly recommends having your gels removed by a professional to prevent any damage.

Pro tip: Whether you're having gel or dip removed, ask your tech to cover your hands in hot towels while your nails are wrapped up in the acetone-soaked cotton pads; the heat will help speed up the process, explains Sarah Gibson Tuttle, founder and CEO of Olive & June.

You can try removing dips or gels at home, but definitely save acrylic removal for the pros since the adhesive used is much stronger — as is your potential to do major damage. "Improper removal, in this case, is ten times worse than it is with gels. It really has to be careful and thoughtful, and should take up to two hours," notes Tuttle.

Tip #2: Hydrate Your Nails

Now that the gel-dip-acrylic is off, the key is to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. "Prolonged use of gel manis and acrylics dehydrates your nails, making them dry, brittle, and fragile," says manicurist Jin Soon Choi, founder of JINsoon nail polish and salons.

Cuticle oil is your BFF for imparting deep hydration. Focus on slathering it not only on the nail itself but also massaging it well into the cuticle. The cuticle is where new, healthy nail growth will start so it's important to nourish and hydrate this area, says Choi.

One best-seller to try: CND Solar Oil Nail and Cuticle Conditioner. Holford also likes using straight-up jojoba oil, which can strengthen nail beds and boost healthy nail growth. She recommends applying it three times per day for five days (and keeping nails otherwise bare) for the best results.

Tip #3: Give Nails a Break

"While there's no scientific evidence that keeping your nails polish-free will make a difference, anecdotally I can tell you that we totally notice a difference in the strength and health of the nails when our clients do take a break," says Tuttle. Choi and Holford agree — all three recommend keeping your nails au naturel for at least a few days after sporting a gel, acrylics, or dip.

If you really need to keep them polished, use a nail strengthener as a base coat, suggests Holford. You can also look for a color that contains strengthening ingredients. (Keep reading for a list of some of our favorites below.)

Tip #4: Consider Going Shorter

"Whether you realize it or not, when you have long nails you're constantly hitting them on your keyboard, the door, you name it. People underestimate how much of an impact this has," says Tuttle.

Keep your nails short and give them a chance to grow out stronger and healthier (and heck, maybe even longer) than before. The other upshot: Nails that aren't in great shape look healthier when they're shorter, adds Holford.

Bannon adds that giving yourself a mini "manicure" — even if it's just as simple as filing your nails — every two to four days can prevent breakage and snags. If your nails are really in need of some T.L.C., repeat these manis for two to four weeks to see results and stronger nails.

Tip #5: Strengthen From the Inside Out

Along with addressing nails from the outside, all the experts we spoke with agreed that the right supplements can help strengthen your tips from the inside out. One good option? Collagen. An essential protein for hair, skin, and nails, ingestible collagen peptides are easily incorporated into your daily routine and can help promote healthy nails.

"Collagen has really made a difference in the health of my nails. They feel resilient and stronger," says Holford. Try NeoCell Super Collagen Powder. Another good option? Biotin. The B vitamin is one of Tuttle's top picks for strengthening nails. Choi adds that along with supplements, you can also incorporate biotin-rich and collagen-synthesizing foods — salmon, avocados, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds — into your diet.

VIDEO: It's Going To Be All About the Almond Nails This Summer

Tip #6: Apply a Nail Strengthener

Orly Nailtrition

Orly Nailtrition Nail Growth Treatment

Bannon recommends ending those aforementioned mini manicures with two coats of Orly's Nailtrition to strengthen damaged nails and promote growth.

Shop now: $15; orlybeauty.com

Essie Treat Love & Color Nail Polish Strengthener

Essie Treat Love & Color Nail Polish Strengthener

If the idea of sporting bare nails is simply unfathomable, this line from Essie is a solid choice. The wide range of sheer colors is infused with strengthening collagen and camellia oil and can reduce peeling and breakage in just one week.

Shop now: $9; amazon.com

OPI Nail Envy

OPI Nail Envy

Holford recommends this OPI pick, which she says is "transformative" for thin nails. You can use it on its own to strengthen nails (it remains clear and won't turn yellow), though, as mentioned, it works equally well as a base coat with benefits.

Shop now: $22; target.com

Ten Over Ten Celery Oil

Ten Over Ten Celery Oil

Celery juice is trending as an overall health booster, and this capitalizes on some of the same benefits ... for your nails. Celery seed extract improves thickness and minimizes the look of ridges, but this strengthening treatment also touts a long list of other beneficial ingredients, such as vitamin B3 and zinc to help harden nails and antioxidant-rich meadowfoam seed oil to protect them from environmental damage.

Shop now: $26; tenoverten.com

Butter London Horse Power Nail Rescue Basecoat

Butter London Horse Power Nail Rescue Basecoat

This treatment pairs biotin with horsetail extract (hence the name), another ingredient known for helping nails grow longer and stronger. While it works great on brittle nails, you can also swipe it on healthy tips for an added boost.

Shop now: $18; butterlondon.com

Olive & June Cuticle Serum Duo

Olive & June Cuticle Serum Duo

Just like how a serum for your face is highly concentrated with beneficial ingredients, so too is this option for your nails. Hydration is the name of the game, thanks to cactus flower, plus a blend of different oils such as jojoba, avocado, and apricot kernel. And, as we now know, hydrated nails mean longer, stronger nails.

Shop now: $30; oliveandjune.com

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