13 useful tips for achieving strong and healthy nails

November 19, 2023 By Thea Off

Nail care experts have provided 13 useful tips for achieving strong and healthy nails, along with ways to identify unhealthy nails. Whether you’re a nail polish fanatic or a chronic nail-biter, everyone wants healthy, manicured nails. Neat nails give a polished and youthful appearance to hands.

To combat the effects of frequent hand washing and missed nail salon appointments, nail care specialists have advised on proper nail care. But first, it is important to know how to determine whether your nails are healthy. Below are some indicators:

Signs of Healthy Nails:

  • The nail plate is a pinkish-white color
  • Cuticles are present (so don’t cut them!)
  • Nails and white tips are of the same length
  • A prominent white, half-moon shaped section (called the lunula) is visible at the base of the nail

Signs of Unhealthy Nails:

  • Peeling or splitting nails may be due to dryness or vitamin deficiency
  • Tiny white spots usually indicate nail-biting or frequent nail painting
  • Horizontal grooves may be due to stress, high fevers, or jamming of the finger
  • Red, swollen skin around the nails may be due to the removal or biting of cuticles
  • Spoon-shaped nails may indicate anemia or iron deficiency


If you are concerned about the health of your nails, it is important to consult a dermatologist. Since nails are highly visible, any problems can be easily detected, and early intervention is crucial, according to Dana Stern, M.D., a dermatologist and nail care specialist in New York. Below are some tips for achieving strong, healthy nails:


  1. Keep your hands clean. After washing your hands, remove all nail polish using an acetone-free remover that won’t dry out your nails. Then, apply soap to a clean toothbrush and gently scrub your nails and surrounding skin to remove dirt and exfoliate any dead skin without harsh, drying chemicals.
  2. Be gentle on your nails. Your nails are delicate, so treat them with care. Avoid using metal tools under nails, as too much digging can cause the nail plate to separate from the skin, which is a condition called onycholysis, commonly found in people over 50. Cleaning with chemicals and washing dishes by hand can also weaken nails. Protect them by wearing rubber, vinyl, nitrile, or plastic gloves.

    Playtex Living Reuseable Rubber Cleaning Gloves

  3. Clip your nails regularly. Consistent trims are as important to your nails as they are to your hair, according to Dr. Janet Prystowsky, a dermatologist in New York City. Regular trims make nails less prone to snags and breakage. Clip them every two weeks, adjusting the frequency as needed.
  4. Prioritize nail health over length. Long nails are elegant, but if you struggle with hangnails or breakage, it is recommended that you keep your nails short. A shorter style with rounded edges looks neat and is easier to manage, which reduces wear and tear on your nails. As long as each nail is uniform in shape and matches its nine neighbors, you won’t miss the added length.
  5. Always keep a nail file on hand. If your job or workout routine exposes your nails to potential damage, have a nail file handy for on-the-spot buffing of any rough edges. Try a glass (also called crystal) nail file instead of an emery board, which can cause nails to peel and snag. A glass file will create an even edge to the nail and can be used on the weakest, brittle, and damaged nails.

    Glass Nail File

  6. It’s important to take care of your nail tools just like you do with your makeup brushes. Bacteria can accumulate on them and cause infections, so it’s crucial to disinfect them between uses. Dr. Prystowsky recommends washing metal tools with soap and water and then wiping them down with rubbing alcohol to keep them infection-free. Additionally, it’s important to regularly replace disposable tools like emery boards. Don’t continue using a worn-out tool when you can easily rotate in a new one for just a few bucks.
  7. Avoid cutting or removing your cuticles because they serve an important purpose of sealing the area at the base of the nail. Removing them can break this protective seal, making you vulnerable to bacterial infections and causing painful tears. Instead, push back your cuticles once a week after a shower when the skin is soft using a wooden orange stick. Afterward, massage your cuticles and nails with a cuticle oil or treatment. GH Beauty Lab chemist Danusia Wnek recommends using serum-like strengtheners that contain moisturizers to rehydrate dry and brittle nails. If you’re looking for a good cuticle oil, Deborah Lippmann’s It’s A Miracle Cuticle Oil is currently available at Amazon.

    Deborah Lippmann It’s A Miracle Intense Therapy Cuticle Oil

  8. Additionally, top coats can also protect your nails from external damage and help your nail polish last longer. Dr. Prystowsky suggests using a quick-drying top coat to avoid smudging your nails after painting them. If you’re short on time, try using a fast-drying top coat like Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat, which can help you get a glossy finish in no time. Remember to apply a fresh layer of top coat every few days to keep your manicure looking fresh and chip-free.

    Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat

  9. Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is important for overall health, but it’s also essential for strong, healthy nails. Dehydration can cause nails to become brittle and weak, so make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day.
  10. Avoid using your nails as tools. Using your nails to open cans, peel stickers, or scrape off labels can cause them to become weak and brittle, and can even lead to breakage or injury. Use the appropriate tool for the job to avoid putting unnecessary stress on your nails.
  11. Be mindful of your nail polish habits. While a fresh coat of nail polish can make your nails look beautiful, leaving it on for too long can be detrimental to their health. Leaving nail polish on for an extended period of time can cause nails to become discolored, brittle, and weak. Make sure to remove your nail polish every few days to give your nails a break and allow them to breathe.
  12. Get regular manicures. Regular manicures can help to keep your nails healthy and strong. During a manicure, your nails will be trimmed, filed, and buffed, and any rough or dry skin will be removed. This can help to prevent hangnails, and keep your cuticles and nails hydrated.
  13. Be patient. Growing strong, healthy nails takes time and patience. It can take several weeks or even months to see the full results of a nail care routine. Be consistent with your nail care habits, and give your nails time to grow and strengthen.

By following these tips from nail care experts, you can achieve strong, healthy nails that look beautiful and polished. Remember to be gentle with your nails, keep them clean and moisturized, and be patient as they grow and strengthen over time.