Here are some common mistakes and the smart fixes to protect your nails.
* Don’t file nails back and forth. The sawing motion weakens your nails and can cause them to split. File in the same direction with a soft emery board. (Those old-fashioned orange emery boards are too harsh for nails, causing small fissures and cracks that lead to breakage and tears.) To help prevent your nails from breaking, keep them short and square with a slightly rounded edge. The best time to file your nails is when you are already wearing a polish. This will prevent splitting or breaking of nails.
* Don’t use acetone-based polish remover. This strips away the moisture and natural oils that will keep your nails flexible. Don’t cut your cuticles. Your cuticles act as a barrier against infection-causing bacteria. Instead, soak your nails in warm water to soften your cuticles and then push them back with an orange stick or washcloth.
* Don’t paint your nails with old polish. Buy a new polish that’s free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and toluene such as Obessive Compulsive Cosmetics (occmakeup.com), Spa Ritual (sephora.com) or Mineral Fusion (available at Whole Foods Stores).
*Don’t wear polish every day. When you wear nail polish, make sure to give your nails a break from time to time. In other words leave them without polish for a few days, every now and then.
* Cut your nails to a manageable length. There is no point in having extremely long nails, they snap off (painfully) and take a while to grow back into a normal shape.
*Moisturize the nail bed and the cuticle. While there is little in the way of medical data showing that moisturizing the nail bed will help nails grow, it can make cuticles look better and help protect nails from breaking due to a lack of moisture. If your nails are prone to breakage, it could mean they need moisture -- and putting oil around the cuticle helps moisturize the entire nail. Gathered From the Garden's Cuticle Cream is a soft creamy butter made with essential oils to moisturize cuticles.
*Change shampoos. While you probably know when your shampoo doesn't agree with your hair, you might not realize it may not agree with your nails -- even if your hair looks great. This is particularly true of detergent shampoos, or those for oily hair. If your nails are dry and you are using any products that strip oils, there is the potential to dry nails.
*Remember toenails count, too! Everything that applies to your fingernails applies to your toenails.
Here’s a little nail trivia—did you know it takes 8 months for nails to grow an inch?