How To Stop Nails Breaking & Becoming Brittle In Winter

Just like the skin on our face and body, our nails suffer in the colder months. While this is mainly due to a lack of moisture, there are lots of other factors at play – such as hormonal changes, manicure techniques and even nutrient deficiencies. To run us through the causes, remedies, tips and best products to use, we asked five nail experts to share all.
By Sapna Rao /

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THE CAUSES

“People often neglect their hands and nails within their skincare routines, but a lack of regular moisture is what leads to dry nails. Nails can also break from general wear and tear, but other factors like nutrient deficiencies or hormonal changes can also play a part. Peeling off gel polish is one of the worst things you can do to your natural nail because it takes a layer off the nail with it, making them much more prone to breaking and splitting.” manicurist Georgia Rae

“It’s a myth that gel polishes cause nail breakage. Many clients come in asking to stay away from gel because it 'ruins their nails', when in actual fact – as Georgia says – it’s incorrect removal and application techniques are the real issue. Nails that are filed down excessively before gel or scraped off aggressively will become damaged, and this is what can lead to breakage.” Amanda Lee, owner & founder of Iris Avenue

“The winter season can be particularly harsh on the nails as exposure to cold weather causes dryness and brittleness. For context, there are three visible layers of the nail plate that are essentially glued together by oil and moisture. When these oils are lacking, the nail structure becomes weak and breakage occurs – most visibly when the tips begin to flake and crack.” Lynn Mason, Nail Expert at Mavala

REMEDIES FOR BREAKAGES

“As long as you use good quality brands, gels shouldn’t harm your nails. BioSculpture for example is great, as it doesn’t compromise nail health. Also, remember to keep your nails hydrated with oils and creams to keep them growing strong and healthy underneath. If you do have to cut nails short after a breakage, stimulate the growth with a product like the CND RescueRXX treatment. This particular treatment includes keratin protein to help strengthen and rebuild the nail, and keeps them hydrated, too.” – nail artist Julia Diogo

“If you do your nails at home, always use a base polish. Even better, use base polishes which have added nourishing or strengthening ingredients to keep the health of the nail bed. Also, try a nail strengthener – I recommend the OPI Strengthener which acts as a barrier and builds strength to weak nails. For broken gel nails, a ‘Silk Repair’ is worth considering – a thin piece of silk will go over the breakage and seal the break together, which is especially useful if the break is low on the nail bed. It keeps the nail together until it grows, and it can be replaced if needed.” Megan Evans, professional manicurist at DryBy

AT-HOME MAINTENANCE

“People tend to neglect their nails at home and often don’t keep up with proper aftercare. I recommend using cuticle oil and hand cream at least three times a day, or after every hand wash. The Weleda Skin Food is a famous for its super rich formula that keeps the skin looking and feeling glow-y and hydrated. Also, make sure to manage your nail length – super long nails aren’t compatible with a busy lifestyle.” Julia

“Regularly cutting and filing long nails will help them stay intact. Opt for files which aren’t too gritty or harsh to maintain your desired length without any flakiness or rough edges. I would also recommend a manicure, gel or otherwise, every two or three weeks – if only to remove any lingering polish. Leftover polish can unbalance the nail apex and cause weight on the free edge of your nail, causing breakages.” Megan

“We adapt our facial skincare depending on the season, so we should do the same for our hands and nails too. I personally exfoliate my hands every other evening, and follow up with a nourishing hand and cuticle treatment before I go to sleep. This allows the products time to work overnight. I then re-apply both a hand cream and cuticle oil about three times throughout the day, too. Where possible, avoid biting the nails or irritating the skin surrounding it. Additionally, I love the Essie Treat, Love + Colour Strengthener in the shade ‘Minimally Modest’.” Georgia

“Avoid acetone – many people don’t realise that using it can cause nails to break. It’s extremely drying on the nail plate so where possible I always recommend using a non-acetone remover. This is much gentler and helps to prevent peeling. Mavala’s Crystal Nail Varnish Remover is great.” Lynn

THE PRODUCTS

“Cuticle oils penetrate deep into the layers of the skin and can provide an intensive moisture boost. Apply them using a massage technique to stimulate growth and bring blood and nutrients to the surface. A Repairing Night Cream will also help. This one comes with a cotton glove to help the product absorb overnight.” – Lynn

“The L’Occitane Shea Nail & Cuticle Oil or the Dior Créme Abricot is perfect for massaging into the cuticles. If your hands and nails need some extra TLC, try the Neutrogena CICA-Repair Hand Mask. Additionally, the Jo Malone Vitamin E Body Treatment Scrub is perfect for exfoliating. Follow it up with a moisturiser – I love the Augustinus Bader Hand Treatment.” – Georgia

“The Iris Avenue Cuticle mist is the first product of its kind. It elevates applying a cuticle oil and is ideal for those on-the-go. The lightweight formula is quick to absorb and never feels greasy, plus it’s made with a blend of oils including wild plum oil and evening primrose oil. This leaves cuticles hydrated and protected – helping build resilient, flexible nails.”  – Amanda

The Elim Cuticle MD is another great cuticle oil – it even comes equipped with a pipette to make it an on-the-go essential.”- Julia

“I love deeply nourishing products, such as the Margaret Dabbs Overnight Hand Mask. A good cuticle balm or oil is also worth having. The Navy Cuticle Balm contains ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil and aloe vera extract to hydrate and nourish. Alternatively, the Biosculpture Seaweed Calcium Base or Volcanic Base is great for weak nails when used like regular nail polish.” –  Megan

For more information visit IrisAvenue.com, Mavala.co.uk & DryBy.co.uk. Follow @RaeLondonNails, @PaintedByJools & @TheBeautyEdits_ on Instagram.


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