How to keep your nails strong and stop them from breaking

It’s the age-old question plaguing anyone who’s a nail polish aficionado — how do you keep your nails strong and stop them from breaking?

Nails looking a little raggedy? Maybe you bite them (we’re not judging), or pick your gel polish off (please don’t do that). Maybe you work with your hands and they take a beating. Or you’ve had acrylics or extensions on for years and recently removed them, and now your nails are weak and peeling. So how do you remedy this situation? We did a little research, asked a few experts, and collected some tips.

It is possible with extra care to grow your natural nails as long as acrylics or tips done in the salon.

Shirley Cheng, an NYC-based editorial manicurist and nail artist shared her solutions for nails that have seen better days.

“My secret weapon for strong healthy nails is cuticle oil. Think of it as conditioner for your nails and skin. When you consider of often you wash your hands daily, imagine if you did that to your hair without conditioning. It would be a wreck,” she said. “Look for a cuticle oil that is jojoba oil or Vitamin E based. The molecules in these are small enough to penetrate through gel or polish and into your nail. Avoid coconut oil or mineral oil, as these just sit in top of your skin. Bonus: cuticle oil also helps your mani last longer. Frequent washing and everyday activities can make the product brittle causing it to chip. Oiling keeps the product flexible.”

Shirley suggests a pro solution too, available at most salons:

"If your nails are already damaged, try asking your nail professional for IBX. It is a nail repair treatment that actually penetrates into the top layers of your nail, similar to what Olaplex does for your hair," she said.

A rounder shape breaks less easily.

Certain nail shapes are stronger than others, and it has to do with how your fingers come in contact with things. Square shapes and stilettos are easier to break because pointy edges can snag or snap easier, resulting in breakage. Round or oval shapes absorb the impact from typing or hitting your fingertips against anything.

Yana Marks is a New York City based professional makeup artist and licensed nail technician, and she echoes Shirley’s sentiment to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

“I always tell my clients that keeping cuticle oil right next to your bed is the trick to building a habit of nourishing your nails and skin every night! Hydrated nails and healthy skin keep your nails strong but flexible,” she said. She advises to protect your hands while doing chores: “I also try to wear gloves when hand-washing dishes. It’s the little habits that matter.”

In addition to moisturizing from the outside, the beauty advice that never fails in any respect is to hydrate by drinking lots of water. It’s good health advice in general, and nice nails is just another benefit.

A strengthening base coat or a hardening treatment can’t hurt, either. There are plenty of products that are readily available at drugstores, online, or through beauty supply sources.

Sally Hansen Nail Treatment Diamond Strength Instant Nail Hardener


Biotin is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin that aids in cell growth. Supplements that include biotin can help strengthen nails, and make skin and hair healthier and stronger.

Hum Nutrition Killer Nails Supplements


Hum Nutrition offers a high-potency vegan supplement.

Beauty Science Hair Skin and Nails 3 In 1


Beauty Science’s yummy soft chews contain turmeric and collagen in addition to biotin to help beautify your nails.

If you add any or all of these practices to your nail care routine, you’ll probably see some improvements. You might even get your natural nails looking like Barbra Streisand’s:

Hey, why stop there? Maybe you could be the next Lee Redmond, Guinness World Record-holder for the longest fingernails on a pair of hands ever. Lee’s routine? Hours of treating her nails with warm olive oil and applying a bottle-and-a-half of nail hardener to each fingernail every day. (You probably won’t need THAT much product.)

Good luck.

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