Cracked nails are dry nails. Exposure to water breaks down the glue-like keratin that strengthens and holds together the top layer of your nail -- too much of the abrasive chemicals in nail polish remover can also have this effect. To counter the dryness, you need to keep your nails moisturized.
Moisturizing your nails is simple. Whenever you use hand lotion or moisturizer, just take an extra moment to rub it in and around your nails. You should use moisturizer after washing your hands, taking a bath, doing dishes or using nail polish remover. If you forget during the day, apply a small amount of moisturizer to your nails and cuticles before you go to bed at night. This simple step will go a long way toward healing your damaged nails [sources: Gibson, Rauh].
Of course, not all moisturizers are created equal. So many lotions, creams and other moisturizing products populate the shelves of your local drug store that you may wonder which is best for your nails.
Look for moisturizers that contain the following ingredients:
- Proteins, such as collagen and keratin, strengthen cells in the nail plate, making the nail more resistant to splitting and cracking.
- Occlusives, such as petrolatum, lanolin and mineral oil, slow the rate of moisture loss from your nails, preventing dryness.
- Humectants trap moisture in the nail plate to prevent drying and cracking. Common humectants include urea, lactic acid, glycerin, propylene glycol, alpha hydroxy acids and phospholipids [sources: Draelos, Rauh].
You may have to spend a few minutes reading lotion labels, but the time will be well spent. A moisturizer that contains a protein, an occlusive and a humectant will give your nails the moisture they need to prevent and treat dry, cracked nails.
Continue reading to learn about other preventive tips and home remedies that will keep your nails looking and feeling healthy.