Looking down at your hands and seeing weak, brittle, and out-of-shape nails can be a bit concerning. There can be a number of different reasons why your nails are looking weak. You might have the habit of biting your nails. Or maybe you haven't given them a break from gels and acrylics. They could also be dried out and in need of conditioning.
Normally, healthy nails are smooth or without pits or grooves, according to the Mayo Clinic. When your nails are damaged, you might find that they split or crack easily, have vertical ridges, or contain white lines or spots due to injury. Those signs are considered normal most of the time and can be fixed.
It's important to note that there are some signs to watch for on your nails that might warrant a visit to a doctor or another healthcare professional. The Mayo Clinic says that if you notice changes in nail color, changes in nail shape (curled nails), thinning or thickening, separation of the nail from the skin, bleeding, swelling or pain, and failure of nails to grow out, you should see a doctor as it might be a sign of a bigger problem.
Aside from those symptoms, there are a number of things you can do to get your nails healthy. Here are a couple of tips:
1. Keep fingernails dry and clean: The Mayo Clinic says repeat or prolonged contact with water can split fingernails. If you're doing the dishes, it can help to wear gloves.
2. Cut your nails straight across: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends slightly rounding the nails at the tips for maximum strength. Keep your nails free of snags by shaping and smoothing them with an emery board.
3. Don't bite your nails: Enough said. The AAD also recommends not using your nails as a tool, like opening soda cans.
4. Be careful with gel polishes: The Cleveland Clinic says the removal process for gel manicures can be damaging. They recommend skipping gel, or at least avoiding getting gel manicures during the winter when nails are driest.
5. Moisturize and condition: When using a hand cream, make sure you're rubbing it onto your nails too. You can also use a nail conditioner regularly, or apply a nail hardener.
6. Don't mess with your cuticles: The Cleveland Clinic suggests leaving your cuticles alone and not pushing them back or trimming them. That's because the cuticle protects the new nail.
7. Consider biotin: And if you need extra support, you can also try a supplement. Biotin has been shown to improve nail health over time. You'll want to chat with your doctor to see if it's right for you and for dosage recommendations.
If you are looking for a supplement to strengthen your nails, take a look at some highly rated ones below.
These Hum Nutrition vitamins are formulated especially for nails and hair strength. It contains vegan biotin, and some users have reported seeing a 25% increase in nail thickness after taking the products.
Sports Research's biotin is probably the highest rated one on Amazon, with over 40,000 ratings and 4.5 out of 5 stars. The vegan-friendly supplement is made with coconut oil.
If you're not a fan of capsules, you can get your nail vitamins through gummies, like these grapefruit-flavored ones. The gummies are formulated with biotin, vitamin C, and keratin to not only make your nails stronger, but also support your hair and skin.
For an herbal option, Gaia's hair, skin, and nails supplement is probably your best bet. It contains nourishing and supportive herbs like horsetail, gotu kola, triphala, astaxanthin, and stinging nettle.
In addition to biotin, these soft gels are formulated with vitamins A, C, and E (which are antioxidant-rich) and hyaluronic acid.
Now's extra strength biotin is developed for energy production as it supports amino acid metabolism and normal immune function. It's also non-GMO and vegan.
These biotin supplements are made with premium ingredients and are hypoallergenic, so they're free of artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, wheat, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, gluten, coatings and shellacs, GMOs, and unnecessary binders and fillers.
These hair, skin, and nail softgels contain biotin and vitamin C to support collagen synthesis. Other ingredients include zinc, copper, and beta-carotene.
These capsules contain the amino acids and minerals that support collagen and keratin. Ingredients include biotin, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants vitamins C and E.
Formulated to support dry, brittle nails, these supplements also promote healthy blood sugar metabolism.
Other Nail-Strengthening Products
Apply this cuticle oil to your nails to condition and moisturize them. It's infused with vitamin E and sunflower seed oil which locks in moisture.
OPI's nail strengthener helps weak nails get stronger and longer thanks to hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium. It also comes in neutral shades if you're looking for a tint.
This cream is enriched with super nourishing ingredients like vitamins A, C, D, and E, minerals, jojoba seed oil, calcium, and beeswax. It prevents chips, cracks, peels, and splits.
You can use this balm on both your nails and lips. The ultra-rich formula contains lipid-boosting and nourishing active ingredients. It's rose-scented, too.
A lot of us are good about moisturizing our faces, but we might forget about our hands, which can get really dried out, especially with a lot of hand-washing. This hand serum is infused with plant-derived squalane, flaxseed extract, aloe, cucumber, and geranium oil.
Next: The 4 Foods Dermatologists Want You to Avoid—and 8 They Want You to Start Eating
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions.
Sarah is lifestyle writer and editor with over 10 years of experience covering health and wellness, interior design, food, beauty, and tech. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she attended New York University and lived in New York for 12 years before returning to L.A. in 2019.
In addition to her work on THE/THIRTY and Who What Wear, she held editor roles at Apartment Therapy, Real Simple, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, and The Bump (sister site of The Knot).
She has a passion for health and wellness, but she especially loves writing about mental health. Her self-care routine consists of five things: a good workout, “me” time on the regular, an intriguing book/podcast/playlist to unwind after a long day, naps, and decorating her home.
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