How to Fix Damaged Nails, According to a Celebrity Manicurist

You don't have to live with trash nails.

Hangnails. Bleeding cuticles. Tips with the pliability of papier-mâché. Reader, you have trash nails, and you’re not alone. But don't fret, the situation doesn't have to be permanent. Some systematic R&R is all it takes to improve the appearance and overall health of your hands, and you don't even have to go bare-fingered in the meantime. Here’s how to bring beaten-down nails back to their former glory, according to manicurist Miss Pop.

Step 1: Remove (gently).

Prevent damage by removing polish correctly. “Don’t use pure acetone. It’s very drying, and a gentler remover with a lower percentage of acetone works just as well,” she says. If you’re hitting the salon to remove gels, the technician shouldn’t use metal tools to pry them off. Instead, she may buff the gel to weaken it, apply a remover-soaked cotton pad, and wrap nails in foil until the gel breaks down. She’ll usually remove any remaining pieces with a wooden orange stick or gentle buffing.

Step 2: Hydrate.

“Everyone should be using cuticle oil at least a few times a week,” says Miss Pop. “It rehydrates your skin and the nail itself.” Apply it around the cuticles. If your tips are bare, you can also rub it into nail beds.

Step 3: Strengthen.

Reach for a deep-conditioning nail-bed treatment that contains oils like photolipids, sunflower oil, or almond oil to give nails more intense enrichment that will make them harder and less likely to break. Save these oil-based formulas for when you’re going color-free, as they’ll cause polish to slip and won’t allow gels to stick.

This story appears in the February 2020 issue of Marie Claire.

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Taylore Glynn
Taylore Glynn

Taylore Glynn is the Beauty and Health Editor at Marie Claire, covering skincare, makeup, fragrance, wellness, and more. If you need her, she’s probably roasting a chicken, flying solo at the movies, or drinking a bad Negroni at JFK.