From first impressions to overall health, nails can be one of the trickiest areas to upkeep, particularly if you're one to indulge regularly in gel manicures or acrylics. It's not only our beauty habits that wear down nails. Hand-heavy activities like certain sports, gardening, or even using harsh chemicals while cleaning can affect nail health and have a huge impact on both appearance and comfort. So what’s the best way to fix nails once the damage is done? We chatted with essie’s Global Lead Educator, Rita Remark, who gave us some great insight. See how to repair damaged nails with 10 simple hacks.
Meet the Expert
Rita Remark is an editorial manicurist and Global Lead Educator at essie.
Use a Cuticle Cream or Oil
Remark notes that one of the easiest ways to repair damaged nails to apply a cuticle oil followed by a hand cream. "Cuticle oils deliver vitamins and nourishment and the cream will lock moisture. Moisture loss is a common symptom of gel nail damage," Remark says. Ingredients like shea butter or argan oil—a prime ingredient in Grown Alchemist's Cuticle Oil—may help soothe nails and are gentle enough to be applied multiple times daily or overnight.
Soak Nails in Olive Oil
This is one of the least expensive methods for DIY nail repair. Simply soak your nails in olive oil for about 10 to 15 minutes daily. If you suffer from dry skin, soaking your feet (or hands during dry winter months) can be a luxurious treatment for both nails and skin.
Drink More Water
Dehydration may also cause nail damage. Make sure you're consuming plenty of water daily, and up your intake of nutrient-rich hydrating foods.
Up Your Biotin Intake
Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin that helps to process glucose (sugars), fats, and proteins and convert them into energy for the body, which is important for many different functions.
One of the best nutrients for hair, skin, and nails is biotin. Aim to consume 30 micrograms daily, and consider incorporating a multivitamin into your daily wellness regimen. Remark says, "This absolutely works, but don't expect instant results. Nails take three months to grow out from root to tip, so be persistent and you'll see fundamentally stronger nails in three months."
Other nutrients like calcium and vitamin C may also have an impact on nail health.
Strengthen with Collagen and Camellia Extract
Collagen refers to a family of proteins that are the primary structural component of connective tissues, such as skin, ligaments, and cartilage. Topical collagen creams are said to improve fine lines and wrinkles by replacing the lost collagen, though its main benefit is moisturizing the skin.
In addition to a Keratin option, Remark highly recommends a steady regime of Essie's treat love & color line, which includes ingredients such as collagen and camellia extract. "It's a clinically proven nail strengthener with results boasting 35% less breakage and 60% less peeling in just one week. It’s strong enough to heal your nails, not just shield them. It also comes in plenty of colors to cover any physical evidence of nail damage on the surface of your nail."
Massage Your Fingertips
Who doesn't love a hand massage? Now you can add repairing damaged nails to the list of reasons why. "Do this every time you apply cuticle oil for added benefit. I'd also recommend filing your nails every three days to stimulate blood flow (which can increase the delivery of vital nutrients and improve circulation)," Remark says. "Think of it as the same technique you use to grow your hair: getting a trim every couple of months to manage dead ends and stimulate growth."
Our hands come into contact with a variety of harsh substances each day. Opt for gentle soaps and cleansers, and wear gloves when you're performing tasks that might be rough on your skin and nails.
Getting into the habit of moisturizing after you wash your hands can be a fantastic way to habitually repair damaged nails. Keep a bottle of lotion beside every sink in your house to experience the difference.
Can you fix nail damage from gel manicures?
Damage from gel manicures is not permanent and can be repaired, although it might take a few months.
Does biotin work for damaged nails?
Yes, biotin is proven to be effective, however, it might take a few months to see results.
How often can you apply nail strengthener to damaged nails?
You can apply nail strengtheners daily to damaged nails.
Victoria State Government Better Health Channel. Nails - fingernail and toenail problems. Updated April, 2018
Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070
National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Biotin fact sheet for health professionals. Updated June 3, 2020.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. Gel manicures: tips for healthy nails.