How to Avoid Nail Breakage


Biting your nails may be a hard habit to break, but it's bad for your fingernails and quitting would lead to better nail health.
Biting your nails may be a hard habit to break, but it's bad for your fingernails and quitting would lead to better nail health.
Color Day Production/Thinkstock

It would be easy to maintain a set of strong, healthy and shiny fingernails but for one small detail: We need to use our hands most of the day, every day. That means our nails are subjected to water, chemicals and climate changes, as well as to whatever we put them through in a given day, and often they start to break just as they're beginning to look good and grow long.

Products for preventing nail breakage are easy enough to find, but whether or not they work is hard to determine. Some contain ingredients that are supposed to strengthen nails so they won't break, but painting on hardeners is less than foolproof. We're harder on our nails than any nail hardener! And avoiding breakage is more than just an outer issue, too. What we eat can feed our nails and make them strong enough to withstand more of what comes their way.

Keeping nails from breaking might just involve breaking some old habits and making some new ones.

Give Your Nails a Break

While it's a great idea to wear gloves to keep fingernails protected when cleaning and doing yard work, is it true that keeping them covered in nail polish makes them weaker? Many women will keep nails bare for days or weeks between painting them, and some forego nail polish altogether because they believe nails need to "breathe." Although it isn't true that nails are breathing, it is possible to weaken nails by painting and removing polish without caring for nails in other ways.

Polish can keep nails stronger, but it also can discolor and dry out nails, and polish is often difficult to remove. If nails are strong and thick, polish may help keep them that way to some extent, but if they're already weak -- and bend and tear easily, or have peeling layers at the tips -- polish may help them grow out, but it also could make them weaker.

Nail-biters might find it helpful to use polish to keep themselves from chomping down, but those who like to peel can find it too tempting -- removing layers of nail polish along with layers of fingernail. And nail polish removers in particular cause drying and breakage for many, so depending on the health of your nails before you layer the red, black, pink or green, you may want to give 'em a break every now and then.

Stop Hammering Your Nails

Using a shoe to hammer a nail into drywall is one way to improvise when you don't have the right tool on hand, but in a typical day, we use our fingernails as openers, knives, scrapers and pickers, just to name a few. Peeling off a price tag, scraping food from a plate and doing the thumbnail push to get the gunk out of keyboard crevices is kind of convenient in a moment of need, but it does a number on nails. And, even though it is one of the more common uses, most of the time nails are not so great at getting to the food between teeth; they often just get stuck there and break or tear.

Each force and bend of a nail causes tiny fractures at the tips and can lead to breakage, so having tools on hand for smaller-scale jobs might help avoid nail breakage. Tiny, keychain Swiss army knives, small toothpick containers or even desk-drawer letter openers or nail files can do the same or a better job than your nails and will help spare them.

Nailing It: Avoiding Breakage from the Inside Out

Keeping your cuticles pushed, and filing nail tips in one direction -- versus back and forth -- can prevent nail splitting that can lead to breakage.
Keeping your cuticles pushed, and filing nail tips in one direction -- versus back and forth -- can prevent nail splitting that can lead to breakage.
Image Source/Thinkstock

A healthy diet that includes minerals and proteins can make nails more beautiful, while making them less breakable, too. A diet weak in nutritional value leads, not only to dull hair and a lack of physical energy, but also weak, brittle and almost transparent nails. Adding more of the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and varieties of foods strengthens bones, teeth and nails.

Caring for fingernails from the outside also helps prevent breakage. Moisturizing the cuticles and massaging oils or vitamin creams into nail beds and the nails themselves actually can strengthen nails by preventing drying. Keeping cuticles pushed back and filing nail tips in one direction, versus back and forth, also prevents nail splitting and weakening that can lead to breakage.

Taking a break from some bad habits and adding some good ones in the way of nutrition and moisture can help give nails a break, while keeping them from breaking.

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Sources

  • Lee, Christa Joanna. "Do Nails Need to Breathe?" Glamour.com. Sept. 3, 2010. (April 29, 2012) http://www.glamour.com/beauty/blogs/girls-in-the-beauty-department/2010/09/do-nails-need-to-breathe-bethe.html
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. "Fingernails: Do's and Don'ts for Healthy Nails." MayoClinic.com. 2012. (April 27, 2012) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nails/WO00020
  • Prevention Editors. "8 Manicure Tips for Younger-Looking Hands." Prevention.com. June 15, 2011. (April 28, 2012) http://www.prevention.com/defy-your-age/8-manicure-tips-younger-looking-hands