7 Simple Ways To Strengthen And Grow Short, Brittle Nails

Little things like filing a certain way and using the right base coat can really make a difference.

I’ve always had short, brittle, weak fingernails. My less-than-impressive nails never bothered me too much, but their tendency to peel, break, and bend did.

A couple of months ago, I finally started getting proactive about improving the health and strength of my nails. Following the seven tips below, I've seen my nails grow long enough to poke over the tops of my fingers, and that's pretty long for me! What's even more satisfying is how strong and sturdy my nails have become.

1. Moisturize Your Cuticles Throughout The Day

Air conditioning, frequent washing, and daily chores make my hands dry out quickly, so I always keep hand cream on my desk or in my purse. Massaging the lotion into my cuticles has really helped strengthen my nails.

My favorite hand cream at the moment is Bliss High Intensity Hand Cream, with macadamia oil and grape seed extract. It’s moisturizing and lightweight, and the scent doesn't compete with my perfume.

If my hands and/or cuticles get very dry, I turn to The Honest Co. Honest Healing Balm, which is marketed as a diaper cream but works wonders on cracked skin, scars, sunburns, and other skin irritations. It’s thick and goopy, so a little goes a long way. Thanks, Jessica Alba!

Tip: after you coat your hands with lotion, try not to touch your face. Hand creams are often thicker or differently formulated than what you’d put on your mug, and you don’t want to risk a breakout.

2. Use A Good, Nourishing Base Coat

There are a lot of formulas and treatments out there aimed to protect and strengthen your nails, but the best one I’ve found is Sally Hansen Complete Care Extra Moisturizing 4-in-1 Treatment. I apply this stuff liberally before painting my nails, and also when I'm going bare. I've been using it for about three months and it really helps to smooth, moisturize, and fill in any ridges in my nails.

3. File Your Nails Into A Rounded Shape

For growing out nails, I’ve found that rounded nails are less likely to snag on anything and break off. It also helps extend the natural shape of your finger, which is nice.

4. Stop Wearing Fake Nails

I used to wear fake nails all the time. Peeling them off (or watching them tragically break off) always did quite a number on my nails, though. I haven’t worn fake nails in almost six months and my nails are much better off for it.

5. Be A Total Princess About Your Nails

I’m pretty sure daintily holding up my hand and loudly proclaiming, “My NAAAIIILS!” was little kid Rachel’s best impression of the prissy, annoying woman she would never grow up to be. Well, sorry, baby Rachie. This is your life now. Growing out your nails means prioritizing them. I’m a little extra careful these days: I wear gloves while I wash the dishes or the bathtub, I keep my hands out of the hot water in the bathtub, and I haven’t opened my own can of fizzy water in months.

6. Eat A Healthy Diet

Y’all know I’m a firm believer in eating well. I firmly believe that anything you put in your body will make more of a difference than what you put on it. Diet can affect your skin, hair and, yes, your nails. If you’re not getting enough of a certain nutrient--like protein or calcium--your nails will suffer for it. I recommend, as always, a diet based in vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Think of how pretty your nails will look while holding that green smoothie!

7. Do NOT Peel Your Nail Polish Off

I won’t get into detail about the things in life I find more satisfying than picking off my nail polish, but there are very few. Picking my nail polish off, especially glitter polish, is my version of biting my nails. I do it in public places, like the gross plebe I am, and I do it nearly every time I paint my nails. In the past couple of months, though, I’ve totally forced myself to stop. Picking off nail polish tears up the nails and leaves them worse off. Grab yourself a cotton pad and some remover, or carry travel-size nail polish remover envelopes in your purse for those times when you just need to remove your color.

How do y’all keep your nails long and strong?