Want Healthier Nails? Here’s What You Need To Know

Are your nails feeling the effects of the weather change? Here’s how to make them look shiny and new.

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How far into fall do you get before your hands start to look like something Disney would do to the evil stepmother? The colder (and drier) the air gets, the more my hands scream for me to pay attention to them. From the cuticles I’ve neglected while running myself ragged during the summer to the nails I’ve been using to dig in the sand and garden dirt, this is the time of year when my hands start screaming for a detox. Care to join me? Here are some of the best ways to bring your nails, cuticles, and the rest of your hands back from the front lines.

Start with the basics.

Got [linkbuilder id=”6448″ text=”yellow nails”]? Yup, you, me and everyone else who opted out of using that base coat of nail polish. Who has all that drying time to waste on a coat that no one will even see? But a base coat won’t just protect you from polish staining your nails. It can actually make your manicure last longer.

Where to start?

Julep’s Oxygen base coat is a little pricey, but you want something free of toxins this close to your nails, and Julep’s products are free from chemicals that are often found in other polishes, such as formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and camphor. OPI Start to Finish doubles as a base coat and a top coat, offering a pretty good bang for your buck.

Take a tip from your haircare.

Moroccan oil and coconut oil don’t just take care of your flyaways. Oils have surged in popularity for use on our hair, and it turns out they provide moisture for our hands too. If you have dry cuticles (and who doesn’t this time of year?), add a drop of oil on each and rub it in. Don’t forget the nail itself. Even though we tend to think of them as dead, the nail is connected to living tissue—hence why they continue to grow—and the American Academy of Dermatologists says that nails need moisture too.

Remove your acetone remover.

Acetone makes fast work of old polish, but while it’s stripping your nails of that power red, it’s also stripping your body’s natural oils. Substitute a non-acetone remover (many brands offer both varieties) in its place for a healthier alternative. It will take more elbow grease to get the polish off, but your cuticles will thank you. Zoya Remove + won’t just strip the polish, it moisturizes your nails too. And it’s reasonably priced. Or grab an old standby! Cutex has a budget-friendly, acetone-free option.

Drink more.

Water, that is. Women are supposed be getting about 91 ounces (that’s 2.7 liters) of water a day, whether it’s in the form of plain water or via the foods and other beverages we consume. But the average adult drinks less than half of that every day. That’s not good for your body, and it’s not good for your nails either. Moisture in means moisture fed to your fingers and toes, and well…you know how this works. Get a water bottle. Start drinking.

Polish your polish collection.

Ever peeked at the ingredient list on a bottle of nail polish and wondered how to pronounce half of those things? Scientists are still sorting out whether all of those chemicals are bad for our bodies. But while they’re doing the digging, you can put your nails on a toxin-free diet from nail polish and polygel nail kits. The watchdog non-profit Environmental Working Group regularly reviews beauty products and rates their safety based on the ingredients. Check out their list to find toxin-free polishes. Some of our favorite nontoxic nail polishes are Smith & CultButter LondonPacifica 7 FreeDeborah Lippmann, and Zoya.

Jeanne Sager
Jeanne Sager is a writer and photographer from upstate New York. She has strung words together for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and more.