Keep in mind, though, that you should consult your doctor when making substantial dietary adjustments or if your nails take a more sudden turn for the worse. For example, horizontal rows of raised ridges can be caused by trauma to the nail (like clawing off acrylics or press-ons before they’re ready), but Dr. Marmur explains they can also be a sign of something more serious.

“Raised ridges can also indicate malnutrition, psoriasis, or a thyroid problem,” Marmur explains. “Check with your doctor if you see horizontal ridges on your nails; they may indicate a more serious problem.”

3. Avoid prolonged contact with harsh soaps.

Most of us are washing our hands more often than usual now, thanks to the pandemic, which means our hands and nails can become dry and cracked. Dr. Gohara recommends staying away from harsh soaps and cleansers as much as possible, as they can further weaken and irritate nails. (Washing dishes? Wear gloves!) 

Boyce adds that you’ll want to look for a hand wash that has hydrating properties, like Hello Lavender & Eucalyptus Foaming Hand Wash, which has moisturizing ingredients like glycerin. We also love Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap, which smells like freshly-squeezed lemonade.


Lavender + Eucalyptus Foaming Hand Wash

Mrs. Meyer’s

Liquid Hand Soap

4. Protect your nails.

With all this frequent sanitizing and cleaning, your hands are likely going to get dried out. That’s where hand creams come in. “Moisturizing our nails on a daily basis can definitely help strengthen nails,” says Dr. Idriss. “I always suggest massaging upwards from the cuticle in a very gentle fashion. Never moisturize your nails in a repetitive motion against the direction of the cuticle, as any sort of trauma to the cuticle can lead to permanent changes and distortion of your nail plate itself.”

Boyce agrees, and recommends creams like KPAway Keratosis Pilaris Lipid Repair Emollient, as it absorbs quickly and moisturizes skin. Wearing gloves to do the dishes and hydrating your nails after washing and sanitizing can also help protect them from becoming more brittle and broken, says Falcone, who loves Deborah Lippmann The Cure because it’s formulated with shea butter to deeply hydrate the cuticles, which are prone to drying out quickly, even under normal circumstances.

KP Away

Keratosis Pilaris Treatment + Lipid Repair Emollient

5. Apply a strengthener.

Falcone also suggests applying a nail strengthener, which is a type of base coat that deeply heals and hardens the damaged nail, once or twice a day. If you’re looking for a gentle option, Falcone loves Nailtiques Formula 2, which, according to cosmetic chemist Ginger King, contains hydrolyzed keratin protein. According to Dr. Gohara, this protein is naturally found in nails and hair, and applying it creates a protective barrier for nails, helping to make them strong and resilient over time. 

You may also want to consider nail serums, which are basically conditioning treatments for your nails. They contain hydrating ingredients, strengtheners like collagen and keratin, and exfoliating acids to remove surface damage.  

6. Take a break.

Do nails need to breathe? Experts say yes. If you’re experiencing weak and brittle nails at the expense of a cool mani, it’s time to consider taking a break. Boyce suggests holding off from your next appointment or even your DIY mani for about three to four weeks to let your nails grow out. 

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