11 Research-Backed, Natural Remedies For Brittle Nails
Brittle nails can have many causes—age, diet, wearing polish for too long, or just bad luck. But there are plenty of natural ways you can restore nail health. Here, the 11 best (and research-backed) tips to help you get longer and stronger tips:
1. Use a natural nail strengthener.
Nail hardeners used to be a no-go in the natural space as they're traditionally made with formaldehyde (it's what makes the polish dry so stiff). Now there are plenty of plant-based options that use ingredients like vitamin E, olive oil, garlic, and tea tree to feed the nail rather than superficially strengthening it.
2. Take a collagen or biotin supplement.
Studies indicate that collagen supplements can support healthy nail growth.* One study found that when patients took collagen daily for 24 weeks, their nail health improved, including better growth rates, reduced breakage, and improved appearance. The same goes for biotin, a form of vitamin B that is often used in hair growth supplements. Biotin has been shown, even in those who aren't dealing with thyroid issues, to support thickness and firmness of nails. If nail growth is a regular issue for you, consider daily supplementation—and best yet, find an option formulated with both.
3. Avoid alcohol-based sanitizers.
While a godsend to germaphobes everywhere, traditional hand sanitizers are very drying to your skin. (You can thank the high alcohol content, which is often north of 90%.) Alcohol in skin care of any kind is very drying, and it's often an ingredient we are told to avoid by dermatologists if you have any sensitive skin woes. "Alcohol, the active ingredient in most sanitizers, will dry out your hands and strip the skin of its natural barrier," says board-certified dermatologist Jeanine Downie, M.D. If your nails are consistently brittle, consider limiting your use or switching to a non-alcohol-based option.
4. Don't soak nails in water.
Water causes nails to expand and contract, and doing so regularly or for long periods of time will make them weaker. (It's why you're told to avoid water or showers up to 24 hours after getting a manicure or pedicure while the polish sets. The stretch from water can cause the polish to chip prematurely.) Wear gloves while doing the dishes, and try to keep them dry when possible.
5. Wear gloves while cleaning.
Along the same lines as above—wearing gloves while washing dishes—keep on gloves while doing chores. Some chemicals in common cleaning agents, even more natural-leaning, can be drying.
6. Keep them protected from the sun.
Like the rest of your body, nails can get sun damage, too. Nails can yellow, turn brittle, or even develop vertical ridges that can last up to six months. You can also develop skin cancer under the nail. As for protection, most colored nail polishes will act as a physical barrier to UV damage, but you can find clear or nude polish with UV protection (it will indicate so on the label).
7. Manicure them regularly.
Don't confuse this with getting a manicure regularly (experts suggest getting no more than two salon manicures a month). However, you can keep chips at bay by keeping nails clipped, filed, and cleaned—or it at least limits the chances of snagging and breaking nails.
8. Consider your diet.
There are a few nutritional deficiencies that contribute to brittle, damaged nails. The most common are iron deficiency, vitamin B7, B12, magnesium, and proteins. So while considering your diet won't be an immediate fix, it will help your nails over time.
9. Limit the exposure to cold.
When the temperature drops and there's less moisture in the air, it can dehydrate the nail bed in the same way that cold, arid environments can lead to dry skin. While you can't control the weather, be sure to wear warm gloves or mittens when outdoors.
10. Apply a cuticle oil daily.
The cuticle is a vital part of nail health. If you have dry cuticles or pick at them, it can cause damage to the nail bed. You can keep your cuticles hydrated with a variety of oils, like olive, coconut, or sweet almond. (A lot of things you can find in the kitchen can be beneficial to cuticle health.)
11. Use a natural exfoliator.
Sometimes nails need exfoliation, too. Don't take a scrub to your fingers, however (far too abrasive). Instead, opt for a gentle, natural chemical exfoliator. Research suggests that glycolic acid can help with restoring nail strength. It's a common skin care ingredient—in peels, pads, or serums—so simply rub it in your nails once a week.
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