"Nail Cycling" Is Like Skin Cycling for Your Manicure—Here's What You Need to Know

Close up of natural fingernails


By now, you've probably heard about the benefits of skin cycling, a skincare practice that involves rotating through your products rather than using all of them every day. But did you know you can actually approach nail care in a similar way? According to nail experts, "nail cycling"—or taking a break from treatments every once in a while—is a great way to keep your nails healthy.

Read on for what you need to know about nail cycling (including the benefits, how to put it into practice, and more) straight from nail expert Tina Wang and board-certified dermatologist Nazanin Saedi, MD.

Meet the Expert

  • Tina Wang is the owner of Lunula Salon in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Nazanin Saedi, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and co-chair of the Laser and Aesthetics Surgery Center at Dermatology Associates of Plymouth Meeting.

Can You Apply the Principals of Skin Cycling to Your Nails?

According to our experts, you can definitely apply the principles of skin cycling (or hair cycling) to your nails. It offers your nails a much-needed break from acrylics, gels, powder, and other nail care products.

There are several reasons why this is a good idea. "Regular manicures can leave your nails weakened, damaged, and stained," says Saedi. A break can give them a chance to repair. And if you regularly get gel or acrylic manicures, taking a break from UV drying lamps is probably wise, too. "A study by researchers at the University of California found that continued, unprotected exposure to the UV light from nail polish dryers can lead to cell mutations that can cause skin cancer," she adds.

Wang says she has recently seen an increased interest in nail cycling in her salon. Incorporating rest days into your nail routine gives your nails a chance to heal between polish and other products used when you visit the nail salon, she says.

What Are the Benefits of Nail Cycling?

As we've briefly discussed, giving your nails a break from all the products you regularly use is a good move for several reasons. The first is that it gives your nails a chance to rehydrate, Wang says.

It also allows for the repair of your nail matrix, which is the area under the base of your nails where your fingernails and toenails form. If your goal is to have healthy nails, keeping your nail matrix healthy is crucial.

Your nails can also become damaged when gel and acrylic manicures are removed. "If you or your nail tech are in a rush, or if you too aggressively remove the polish, you can damage the nail," Saedi says. "Over time, you can [significantly damage] your nails, leaving them brittle and dehydrated." Taking breaks from manicures is a great way to avoid this.

Another perk of nail cycling is that it reduces your exposure to UV light. "If you are consistently spending time underneath a UV dryer, you should consider ways to reduce your exposure to the UV light that could lead to skin cancer," Saedi says. And if you're getting a manicure with regular polish, she suggests you skip the UV lamp entirely.

How Do You Nail Cycle?

Saedi recommends taking a break from manicures—especially from gels, acrylics, or shellac—around once every eight or 10 weeks. The breaks should last about one or two weeks, but you may want to wait longer if your nails are thin or brittle. She also suggests cycling between gel and regular polish.

When you're taking a break from nail treatments, focus on keeping your skin, nails, and cuticles moisturized.

The Final Takeaway

Remember: No matter how much you love the look of a perfect manicure, your nails need a break sometimes. The general advice with nail cycling is to give your nails a little respite for a week or two every couple of months. You can use the health of your nails as a guide—if your nails are looking brittle or you think a longer break would be helpful, go for it. "If you notice that your nails are getting thinner, getting grooves or ridges, or are breaking easily, take a break," Saedi says.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. UV-emitting nail polish dryers damage DNA and cause cell mutations. University of California.

  2. Nail matrix: what it is, function, damage & conditions. Cleveland Clinic.

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