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How to Fix a Broken Nail at Home, According to Manicurists

woman with dainty daisy manicure

 @byrdiebeauty/@hollyfalconenails

While there are certainly bigger problems in the world than a broken nail, there’s no denying that suddenly chipping, cracking, splitting, or fully breaking your nail is nothing short of a disappointment—especially if you’ve been trying to grow them out. 

Unfortunately, no matter how much you try to avoid breaking a nail—from religiously applying strengthening serum (we’re obsessed with ISDIN Si-Nails Strengthening Treatment, $30) and learning how to correctly remove gel polish to avoiding excessive exposure to hot water, which can soften nails and lead to more cracks and snags—it’s rather unavoidable at least every once in a while. 

Thankfully, a broken nail doesn’t need to automatically ruin your manicure. After all, there seems to be one sure-fire way to fix a broken nail. According to nail experts Sarah Gibson Tuttle, Lauren Dunne, and Molly Romah, the best way to rehab a broken nail—if the goal is to salvage length—is to get crafty with a tea bag or paper towel. Fortunately for us, they're breaking down exactly how to fix a broken nail, ahead.

Meet the Expert

  • Sarah Gibson Tuttle is the founder of Olive & June, a beloved nail salon and product line based on Los Angeles, CA.
  • Lauren Dunne is a nail expert and the co-founder of Washington, D.C.-based nail salon, Varnish Lane.
  • Molly Romah is the lead nail technician at Chillhouse in New York City.
01 of 05

File the Broken Nail (and All Your Nails, While You're at It)

woman filing nails against blue background

 Stocksy

Whether you’ve cracked, chipped, or fully broken your nail, the first thing you’ll want to do is file the edges. “Moving in one single direction, file the nail back to the original shape so that it matches the other nails (just a little shorter),” Gibson Tuttle says. “If it's a major break, clip 90 percent and file the remaining 10 percent.” 

The reason filing is such a must—apart from the fact that most folks like smooth edges—is because doing so will help limit how far a crack can lead through the nail, which helps to avoid getting unnecessarily close to the quick. (Ouch, no thank you.)

Now, note that if your nails are quite short, filing might be all it takes to repair your nail. However, if you have long almond-, oval-, stiletto-, or coffin-shaped nails and you’ve cracked one edge, you’ll want to file the jagged edge (as opposed to clipping) and move on to step two.

Pro Tip: "This is exactly why we created The Studio Box,” Gibson Tuttle says. “It takes all the guesswork out of what you need to do the perfect salon manicure at home: file, buffer, and all.” The Olive & June Studio Box has all of the essentials you need to protect your polish, care for your cuticles, and extend the life of your manicure inside one super cute, reusable mani box—apart from paper towels or teabags, that is. Fortunately, most of us have those lying around the house.

02 of 05

Wipe Your Broken Nail With Rubbing Alcohol

Person wiping their nail with a cotton ball.

 Gonzalo Calle Asprilla / Getty Images

Before placing the tea bag or paper towel over top of your cracked nail, Romah says you’ll want to wipe your nail with alcohol and buff it out so that it’s completely smooth. This will not only help the cloth adhere better but the polish too.

03 of 05

Cut a Small Corner of Paper Towel or Tea Bag

Paper towels layered over a blue background.

 Jennifer A Smith / Getty Images

Once your nail is filed, Dunne says to cut a small piece of tea bag or paper towel to lay over the entire crack—and, yes, it’s totally fine if it takes up the surface of the nail. After cutting your cloth, put it to the side until step four.

04 of 05

Apply Basecoat, Then Adhere the Paper Towel to the Crack

Bottle of essie Here to Stay Top coat
essie Here to Stay Base Coat $10
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Now that your nail is buffed and filed to perfection, it’s time to put your nail back together. “Apply a layer of clear polish and use a toothpick or tweezers to apply the tea bag to the nail while the clear polish is still wet,” Dunne instructs. Once dry, buff out any rough patches before moving on to the next step. 

Romah notes that you can also do this with gel polish if you want a longer-lasting fix. If that’s the case, instead of regular clear polish, opt for a gel basecoat and be sure to cure it with a gel lamp between coats.

Pro Tip: Many old-fashioned nail hacks recommend gluing broken nails back together but Dunne says you should steer clear of doing so. “We recommend avoiding nail glue as it contains chemicals that can be very irritating to the nail bed,” she explains.

05 of 05

Finish With Polish

Person painting their nails surrounded by nail polish and nail tools on a pink background.

 Olive & June

After marveling at how well a paper towel or tea bag mends a broken nail, you’ll want to make it look just as polished as your other nails, so pick your favorite hue and paint accordingly.

Pro Tip: If you’re pressed for time after repairing a broken nail, or you simply don’t have your polish color with you, nail stickers are a great way to camouflage any irregularities on your nail.

Olive & June Nail Art Stickers on a white background
Olive & June Cabana Love Nail Art Stickers $8
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