The Ultimate Guide to Repairing Damaged Nails

Five must-follow, expert-approved tips.

models posing showing off nails

There are countless ways nails become damaged. Maybe you’re guilty of peeling off your gel polish, or you’ve been biting your cuticles. Or, if you’re like me, rather than using a box cutter, you’ve used your nails to slice packages open. Regardless of your nail sins, there’s still hope when it comes to healing brittle, weak nails. Below, I spoke with a few industry experts to discover exactly how to repair damaged nails at home.

Wear Gloves

Sliding reusable gloves on while washing dishes or using cleaning supplies is an easy way to protect your nails from damage, says celebrity nail artist Deborah Lippmann. She also recommends switching out your hand soap. Conventional soaps can strip your skin and weaken your nails; opt for a non-irritating hand soap formulated with soothing ingredients.

Hydrate Your Nails

“One of the most important steps, treatment softens and hydrates the nails and cuticles,” says Melanie Graves, the digital creator behind the nail art inspo account Overglow Edit. “If you don't have a nail-care routine, I'd start with a cuticle oil and hand cream.” Work the products into your morning and evening routine, and be sure to apply them after washing your hands, adds Graves. Lexi Suga, owner of Notox Nails, suggests looking for a cuticle oil formulated with hydrating vitamin E to promote healthy nail growth.

The Rose Oil


Push Back Your Cuticles

Your cuticles exist for a reason. “It’s a barrier to keep bacteria and infections out,” says Lippman. You want to push the cuticle back toward the knuckle rather than ripping off the skin. Lippman recommends applying a cuticle remover where the skin meets the nail before gently pushing them back. And if you have a piece of skin hanging off, Lippmann stresses that you shouldn’t pull or rip it off. “Grab a cuticle nipper, place it at the base of the hanging skin, then close and open the jaw of the nipper,” she says.

Once you’ve taken care of your cuticles, rub a few drops of cuticle oil onto the base of the nail to hydrate them.

File Your Nails in One Direction

“People tend to ‘saw’ back and forth when they should instead be filing in only one direction,” says Lippmann. When shaping your nails, make sure the file isn’t slanted, she adds. “It should be straight against the side wall then perpendicular when you’re filing the tip of your nail.”

Crystal Nail File

Margaret Dabbs London

Use a Strengthening Base Coat

With excessive damage, you want to basically leave your nails alone, says Graves. “I'd avoid gel and keep the nails bare, other than maybe a strengthening base coat to protect the nail.” Suga agrees, stating that picking and pulling at your nails and cuticles will only make things worse. The most important thing to commit to is a consistent nail-care routine.

“I recommend cuticle oil, hand cream, a strengthening base coat, and a keratin nail treatment,” says Graves. “These will keep the cuticles and nails hydrated while also helping to protect and strengthen the nails during the regrowth process.”

The Hand Cream

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