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Healthy nails: Nip it before you rip it
Take your cue from your cuticles, which help protect nails as they grow. “Use a curette, also known as a pusher, to pick up any loosened cuticle and remove it from the nail plate,” advises Jennifer Mather, an education ambassador for CND. When it comes to cutting cuticles, be very (very) careful. “There’s a difference between a manicurist trimming the tissue around the surface of your nail, if it’s dead or hanging, and actually trimming the cuticle, which is the barrier between your nail and your skin,” warns Rita Remark, nail artist for Essie Canada. “When you cut the cuticle, you lose that barrier. If you overcut your cuticles, bacteria can get in, and that could lead to inflammation or even infection. It’s really dangerous. When I think about what our nails touch every day, it puts fear in my heart.” Mather recommends using a nipper for hangnails, but don’t overdo it: You could end up cutting live tissue. Follow up by applying a product that will slough off dead skin cells from nails and cuticles. Look for a treatment containing AHA, which Mather says acts like “shampoo for your nails.”
The BEST NAIL CARE advice
Healthy nails: Toughen up
Nail oils moisturize the nail plate (or nail surface), making cuticles softer and nails more pliable. “With daily use, you’ll see a visible difference on the skin surrounding the nail and a general healthy appearance in seven days,” says Remark. Look for a product that contains a quick-absorbing oil, such as sweet almond, and vitamin E, a natural healer. Jeff Pink, founder and CEO of ORLY, is all about oils too. “I advise massaging one to two drops into the matrix—the half-moon visible on the nail—and cuticles several times a day. And to prevent peeling and splitting, use a strengthening base coat.”
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To bulletproof weak , brittle nails, look for a treatment that strengthens and boosts growth. (But don’t expect to grow Guinness-record nails overnight; it takes time for the nail to grow from root to tip.) There is a range of options out there, with brush-on polishes that contain antioxidants, calcium and keratin (a protein) to help build and protect. And while some research shows that biotin—a B-complex vitamin— may help strengthen weak fingernails, it won’t increase the speed of growth. To keep your tips in top shape, always wear gloves when cleaning or gardening and never pick or peel polish off your nails—you might peel off a layer of nail with it.
Healthy nails: One direction
Nails that are long are also prone to breaking. Use sharp clippers or manicure scissors to trim, and then gently smooth the nail edge with a file. “File in one direction only, not in a back-and-forth motion,” cautions Pink. Mather recommends a file with a grit of 240 or higher (look for “fine” or “superfine” on the packaging); anything coarser may be too abrasive and could shred the layers of keratin that make up the nail. Try to resist the urge to bite your nails or use them as a substitute for a screwdriver. (There are better ways to assemble your IKEA furniture.) With time, you’ll be rocking a natural mani that’s as tough as nails.