This Is Ruining Your Nails (And You Don’t Even Know It)

Faith Xue

If you constantly suffer from dry, weak, brittle nails and don’t know why, we may have an answer for you: you’re washing your hands too much. Or rather, you’re washing your hands with bare nails too much. Allow us to explain. On a recent outing, we were chatting with manicurist Jill P. Thomas, who casually said something along the lines of, “You know, the worst thing you can do for your nails is to wash your hands with them bare.” Excuse us? Obviously, we made her explain. “Nail are porous, and when exposed to water unprotected they will absorb the water, making the nail expand,” she tells us. “When the nail dries, it shrinks and can become more brittle than before.” Talk about a paradigm shift. And all this time we were so proud of ourselves for our excessive hand washing.

To remedy this, try and always have a strengthening base coat on your nails, even if you don’t have time for a manicure. If you are giving your nails a “breather,” she recommends dousing them throughout the day with an oil, like jojoba oil (“It has a tiny molecular structure and will easily absorb into the nail plate!”). This is especially important before showering, where you’ll be subjecting your poor nails to warm water for an extended period of time. Thomas also says to always use dish gloves when you’re washing the dishes, whether or not your nails are polished; dish soap is harsh and can be extremely drying, leading to your cracked nail stitch. And the final step in your nail rehab program? Thomas suggests a protein-rich nail treatment, like Duri Cosmetics Rejuvacote ($8) or Nailtiques Formula 2 ($10). 

Shop some of our favorite base coats below and tell us—have you ever heard of this tip? Sound off below.

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