Keeping my nails in good condition has always been a struggle until I realised the less I do, the happier they are. By following a few simple yet effective steps and ditching "strengthening" products I've found my nails are far more likely to grow strong and healthy.
Avoid Negative Nail Products
Nail polishes containing formaldehyde should be totally avoided; while quite a few nail products (including nail strengtheners) contain this chemical and can make nails harder, they can also make them stiff and brittle making them break more easily. Through experience I have found nail strengtheners actually cause more damage than good; I find it much more beneficial to leave my nails bare and simply give them some time to grow.
Limit the Use of Nail Polish Removers
Alcohol and other solvents found in nail polish removers dry nails out, making them weak and prone to breakage. By limiting their use less damage is done to the growing nails. It's claimed you should "let your nails breathe" by leaving them bare for a few days to help nails grow stronger, however, what's really happening here is you're not exposing your nails to the damage caused by solvents. Nails do not breathe.
A good hand and nail cream is essential for nail care. Nails are subject to environmental drying effects just like your skin, so you may find in winter the condition of your nails worsen. Avoid soap, detergents, and harsh chemicals, and use hand cream regularly, applying more frequently in the winter months. Sweet Almond Oil can strengthen and hydrate nails making them less prone to peeling and breaking. Massaged into the nails and used in place of cuticle oil, it cares for rough, ragged cuticles, and helps deliver fatty acids, replacing the moisture balance lost during cold or dry weather and the drying effects of soap.
Protect Against Damage
Over washing your hands, exposing them to harsh chemicals and detergents, and pulling instead of clipping nails can cause damage. Using the right tools and avoiding exposing them to unneccessary stress all helps keep them strong and healthy. Clip nails properly (don't pull or tear), use a crystal nail file to gentle file without pulling or snagging, and avoid using products that cause dryness by moisturising regularly.
Nothing is more important than a healthy diet; incorporating a mixture of biotin/vitamin H, vitamin A, omega-3, protein, and zinc into your diet will help your nails grow strong and healthy. If you're unsure what to eat for healthy nails I suggest fruit (bananas, apricots), vegetables (green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots), nuts (peanuts, walnuts), leafy greens (spinach), beans, lentils, and whole grains.