If dry, peeling nails are your struggle, there are things you can do to get them back into good health. According to our favorite beauty experts, these at-home remedies that include good old-fashioned TLC and some nutrition tweaks could be your ticket to better nails.
1. Soak nails in olive oil
For weak, thin nails, soak them in extra virgin olive oil 10-15 minutes a day for a month, then twice a week thereafter. This inexpensive home beauty treatment will help fortify damaged, weak or peeling nails.
"Applying vegetable oil helps relieve dryness and cracking of toenails," confirms Dr. Wenjay Sung, a board-certified podiatrist in Los Angeles. "Unlike creams, oils do a better job soaking into the nail bed and moisturize the structural toenail bed longer than creams and gels."
2. Use a cuticle cream like it's your religion
A soothing cuticle cream like Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme helps nourish dry cuticles and brittle, damaged nails with vitamin E. Massage the cream into and around your nails nightly before going to bed.
Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center, advises, "Cuticles can dry out from repetitive hand washing and manicures, so if they are not given extra protection with a nourishing cuticle cream, they will crack and split, increasing risk of nail infection."
3. Don't overuse your nails
Your fingernails aren't intended to be tools to open soda cans. Instead, use a pen or other object rather than your fingernails to do these everyday tasks.
4. Wear gloves for chores
When doing the dishes, cleaning and gardening, wear gloves. Detergents and cleansers are harsh on your fingernails, causing drying, spitting and peeling. Soil and gardening can also cause damage to your nails.
As Dr. Tanzi pointed out, the best way to take care of hands and nails is to avoid drying them out. "Frequent hand washing with antibacterial soap is very harsh," she says. "I recommend washing with a gentle cleanser, which will sanitize just as well as harsh products and a good moisturizer afterward to lock in the hydration. At night, a thicker moisturizer on hands with a rich cuticle cream will keep hands/nails looking great."
5. Eat biotin-rich foods
Make sure your diet features foods rich in biotin, such as liver, cooked eggs, whole grains, cauliflower and avocado, among others. In addition to other health benefits, biotin can help strengthen and thicken nails. You can also take a biotin supplement, if necessary.
Next Up: Take a multivitamin daily
Originally published September 2008. Updated September 2017.
6. Take a multivitamin daily
Vitamins are essential for your overall well being and can do wonders for your nails too. Lack of vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium can cause dry, brittle nails. Be sure to take a multivitamin and calcium supplements daily. Also be sure to eat a protein and calcium rich diet.
7. Avoid traditional nail polish remover
Don't use nail polish remover more than once or twice a month, if possible. And never use a nail polish remover that contains acetone, which can dry and damage nails. Try Josie Maran's Bear Naked Nail Wipes instead.
If your nails have seen better days, taking a break from nail polish and nail polish can help to support healing. Dr. Sung advises, "To repair damaged nails, sunlight is sometimes the best answer. Using nail polish excessively prevents vital sunlight from reaching the nail bed and may prevent nails from fully healing and regenerating cells. Sunlight is vital to our skin and also to our hair and nails as well."
8. Find a 'miracle' treatment
Sally Hansen Miracle Cure for Severe Problem Nails works wonders. It stops nails from peeling almost overnight. Using a mineral rich formula with protein and antioxidants, this treatment helps restore dry, splitting, damaged nails. A clear coat of nail polish may also help protect nails.
"To prevent dry, damaged nails, you will want to follow two basic nail care steps," says Holly L. Schippers, CND Education Ambassador and Empower Nail Art Lead Educator at FingerNailFixer. "Keep them covered and protected with your favorite nail coating, even if it's a simple, thin coat of clear polish. Second, waterproof them with a high-quality oil that contains jojoba or squalene, ingredients which allow the oil to penetrate the coating and the nail surface so that the oil is able to lubricate individual nail cells — improving flexibility and making the nail less susceptible to damage from water and other chemicals. My favorite is CND Solar Oil."
9. Actually massage your nails
Massaging your fingernails stimulates blood flow to the area, helping them grow longer and stronger. Use a moisturizing lotion and massage hands, cuticles and the nails themselves. And as Dr. Tanzi recommended, get into the habit of applying lotion immediately after washing your hands.
10. Drink a lot of water (no surprise here)
Just as water is for your overall health, that goes for your nails too. Drinking water can help hydrate dry, damaged nails, just like it does for hair and skin.
Even when you've reached the point of no return — where your nails are a hot, hot mess — there still may be a light at the end of the tunnel. For very severe nail damage, time is what you need, and lots of it. Schipper estimates that, when following the steps above, it may take anywhere from 3 to 6 months for new and healthy nails to grow out completely. If you're desperate and in need of a quicker fix, Schipper recommends a product like CND Rescue RXx, which, she says, which will deposit keratin on the surface and improve nail condition in about 4 weeks.