Nail Care 101: A Guide To Treating Yours Better

If your nails are feeling fragile, now might be a good time to give them some extra TLC. From filing them properly to maintaining healthy cuticles and preventing splits, three manicurists and nail experts share their essential care tips.

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File In One Direction Only

“It’s common to see people file their nails in both directions, but it’s better you don’t,” advises manicurist and nail expert Loui-Marie Ebanks. “Keep your file on one side of the nail; use the full range of it, moving to the other side in one swift stroke. A forwards and backwards sawing motion can separate the fibres and cause peeling. Make sure you file them regularly though: it encourages nails to be stronger, just like trimming the ends of your hair.”

Stock Up On Creams & Balms

“Colder weather can dry out your hair, skin and nails,” explains nail artist Emma Jackson. “I advise using hydrating hand creams as well as a cuticle balm or oil to maintain optimum hydration. If your nails and the skin around them are moisturised, it will ensure they stay supple and flexible, and stop them becoming dry or brittle. I love the Navy Pro Tools Cuticle Balm and Weleda’s Skin Food – both are intensely hydrating to see you through the colder months ahead.” 

Cover Nails At Night

“This is especially relevant if you have dry hands and cuticles,” says A-list manicurist Harriet Westmoreland. “It’s the best time to restore some essential moisture. Every night, apply a product like Dior’s Abricot Crème to your nails and cuticles. Again, take a small amount and rub it in circular motions anywhere that needs it. You can then wear gloves to lock in the moisture, or just leave the formula on overnight. Either way, you’ll wake up and see how much better your nails look – think of it like you would a hair conditioner. It’s a staple in my kit.”

Get A Monthly Manicure

“Remember, it doesn’t have to be a gel manicure every time. A regular one will keep nails in the right shape so you’re not hacking away at them yourself,” says Emma. “It’s a myth that nails need to ‘breathe’ and you shouldn’t get manicures too often. If anything, regular ones can help to bolster hydration and keep your nails neat at all times. That said, I do recommend a short break from treatments once a year. During this time, follow an intense conditioning programme to keep nails in the best health possible.”

If your nails and the skin around them are moisturised, it will ensure they stay supple and flexible, and stop them becoming dry or brittle.

Follow A Daily Routine

“Everyone should be using a nail strengthener daily,” adds Emma. “These target and improve the health of your natural nail and my favourite is the Ethos Seaweed Calcium Base from Renew Beauty. Containing calcium, magnesium and zinc, the ingredients work together to harden nails and keep them hydrated. Likewise, use a cuticle oil daily – it’s boring to say it all the time, but it really does stop nails from drying out or splitting or peeling. My go-tos are the Elim Cuticle MD and Navy Professional’s Cuticle Balm. A light massage of these products into your cuticle will also help promote nail growth, so do take the time to indulge a little.” 

Stop Submerging Your Nails

“Contrary to popular belief, water doesn’t hydrate nails if you soak them for too long,” explains Loui. “Regular swimming, long baths or washing up without wearing rubber gloves can cause excess peeling as the moisture penetrates the nail fibres, expanding and lifting them, which in turn results in flakiness. Try to keep them out of the water as much as you can to minimise brittleness.” 

Opt For A Gentler File

“It’s important to use a gentle filing tool that’s not too abrasive,” says Emma. “This will only damage your natural nail and, in turn, cause issues like splitting and peeling. A nail file with a grit of around 220/240 is perfect for the free edge – the top of your nail – and to shape and take down length if needed. Just don’t use a nail file like a saw – stick to one direction and remove the file with each stroke. Also, avoid filing into the side walls of your nail. This causes weakness and can result in snapping.”

Use Shea Butter

“If you’re on a budget, look for what you might already have at home,” finishes Loui. “Pure shea butter is incredibly moisturising and can be mixed with other essential oils to provide some much-needed nourishment. Almond and jojoba oils are also a great remedy for scruffy nails and withered skin. Get creative, mix things together, and stick to your daily routine – your hands and nails will thank you for it.”

Treat Your Gels Differently 

“Steer clear of products that aren’t designed for cuticles/nails when you have gel colour,” continues Emma. “Certain ingredients can cause gel to lift, which is a primary cause of premature brittleness. But it’s still important to layer on a cuticle balm or oil – the right products can actually prolong the life of a gel manicure and lock in extra moisture, so that when the gels come off, you’re not left with dry nail beds. Finally, it should go without saying, never peel off your gels. When you peel anything off, you take the top layer of the nail with it, which is why it takes such a long time to recuperate. If you’re desperate, try using the Peacci Basic Gel Removal Kit at home. It breaks the seal of the top layer of gels to remove everything more gently.”

Finally, Minimise Nail Splits

“Vertical splits in nails are a common issue,” finishes Emma. “More often than not, they are a result of previous trauma to the nail and it’s likely that, if a person has a split, the nail plate will continue to grow that way – though not always. If you suffer with this, keep your nails short to avoid catching the split and making it worse. There are also products such as gel overlays which help to maintain the split, and often hold it together.” 

Are your nails permanently brittle, yellow or splitting despite regular care? Book in to see a nail dermatologist for further advice and tailored treatments. SheerLuxe rates:

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